As an adult, Kevin’s first career was as a policeman, then detective in the Scotch Plains, NJ police force, during which time his foray into art was focused on composite sketching for the police department – he became the first African American composite sketch artist in the country.He retired from his police career and turned to art to heal after the death of his wife and child. Memory is an ongoing theme in his work, which consists of found object assemblage sculpture and painting. It surfaces as a direct theme in sculptures that explore history and the past, the memories contained by objects in his sculptures, and, sometimes in work that is deliberately created to be temporary and fleeting.
Kevin’s work references and incorporates African spiritual traditions, including Yoruba and vodou and follow the traditions of African griots or storytellers. Much of his work offers personal commentary on issues of race, racism and systemic injustice in the U.S. from the era of the Atlantic slave trade through the present. To learn more about Kevin Blythe Sampson in his own words, please click here.
In addition to the sculptures included in the Mariposa’s exhibit “Freedom Songs,” Kevin visited us in Oak Bluffs in July to create an assemblage sculpture entitled “Legend of the Flying Africans” with objects he found on the Vineyard, brought with him, or that were contributed by the community. That sculpture is on display at The Carnegie museum in Edgartown through early October.
Sculptures and paintings by Kevin Sampson featured in Freedom Songs! at the Mariposa are for sale this season. Kevin also enjoys receiving commissions for pieces around specific themes.
Kevin has held residencies at the Marie Walsh Sharp Space program, NY, the John Michael Kohler art Center, in Sheboygan WI, the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans, the Mystic Seaport Museum in CT, and Mariposa Museum in Oak Bluffs.