The Red Piano Too Art Gallery and Penn Center are hosting a joint collaborative tribute to Saint Helena Island folk artist, the late Sam Doyle. The month long event is a celebration of the man and his art.
The Red Piano Too Art Gallery will have an opening reception for the local artists exhibiting in this show. Their work will pay homage to the artist. Some of the other artists are: Paul Allen, Johnny Griner, Sonnel Thompson, Susanne Day, Sandra”Renee”Smith, Diane Britton- Dunham, Mary Mack, Elayne Scott, Shirley Hunter, and Sabra Wolfe. Please join us on March 11, 2015 and March 12, 2015 from noon to 5:00 p.m.
Penn Center will exhibit works from its permanent collection of Sam Doyle paintings during the month of March. Victoria Smalls, Director of History, Art and Culture at Penn Center wrote, “The Sam Doyle Folk Art Festival invites the ingenuity and expression of South Carolina Folk Artists to showcase their works of art for the world to see. Experience a rare opportunity to see the art work of Gullah Folk Art Icon, Sam Doyle, presented in the community where he spent his life and derived his inspiration.”
Mary Inabinett Mack owner of the Red Piano Too Art Gallery said, “It is very appropriate that we should celebrate the life and work of Mr. Doyle as he was instrumental in communicating and perpetuating the history of the Gullah lifestyle in his art.”
Sam Doyle, born in 1906 spent his entire life living in the Wallace community on Saint Helena Island. He was born twenty one years before the bridge was built connecting downtown Beaufort to the Sea Islands. His great grandparents had been enslaved on the Wallace Plantation on Saint Helena Island. One of nine children born to farming parents, he attended the Penn School where his artistic talents were first noticed. Sam left school and worked for nine years as a stock clerk at the Saint Helena Corner Store, then as a porter in a warehouse and for seventeen years at the laundry on Parris Island. After retiring from his Civil Service laundry job, Doyle spent the remainder of his life creating art and keeping the grounds at The Chapel of Ease ruins on Saint Helena Island.
Doyle began painting in the 1940’s and for the rest of his life he chronicled the Gullah lifestyle as well as worldwide events he considered newsworthy. The artist’s family had a rich oral tradition through which they passed family history and events occurring in the Saint Helena Island Gullah Community from generation to generation. This oral history inspired his painting. Doyle is one of the most important Folk Artists to come from South Carolina. He had the ability to use discarded items and paint a visual history of Saint Helena Island’s past. This is a history not found in books, but rather told for the people and by the people. He created a colorful gallery of local characters like his great grandmother, Adelaide Washington, and his great grandfather, Pedro Rivers, both born enslaved but who would fight in the Civil War. He painted the islands “firsts” such as midwife, doctor, teacher, solider, motor car, funeral director to mention some.
Mary Mack recalls seeing her first Doyle painting. She was in the seventh grade at Penn School. Sam Doyle’s son, Sam Jr., sat next to her. He brought to class a painting of Saint Joseph Baptist Church… each student was to paint something and bring it in.., I looked at the painting and whispered,” Oh, Sammy, you didn’t paint that,” and he whispered back, ”No, my daddy did it.” Of course I was too young to know that Sam’s paintings would someday be worth thousands of dollars.
A highlight of Doyle’s career was being selected to exhibit his work in the 1983 ”Black Folk Art in America” collection at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. He was honored to be recognized as one of the finest self-taught black artists in America.
It is this history that is the inspiration for a Sam Doyle Tribute at The Red Piano Too Art Gallery and a Sam Doyle Festival at Penn Center this March. Gallery artists are excited and honored to paint a tribute to the great American folk artist Sam Doyle. Saint Helena Island Gullah Man, Sam Doyle, is a hero to all who love the history and art which is Saint Helena Island’s heritage.