First published: Winter 2007
South Carolina native Sam Doyle opened the door of his Washington, DC hotel room and invited Jane Livingston and John Beardsley inside. The co-curators of the much-anticipated exhibition Black Folk Art in America 1930–1980 were hosting a preview for the members of the Corcoran Gallery of Art later that evening and they very much wanted the artist to attend.
The day before, January 13, 1982, Doyle and the other honourees had attended a reception at the Corcoran. He had the sublime pleasure of seeing his artworks formally presented for the first time and shaking the hand of First Lady Nancy Reagan. He was enjoying one of the best days of his life, when, a few miles away, Air Florida Flight 90 plunged into the icy Potomac. Six people survived the crash, but only five were rescued, each one pulled from the frozen river in a daring helicopter-assisted rescue documented by area television crews and replayed since on virtually every channel.
The resultant ebb and flow of emotion had shaken the wary artist. Despite their reassurances, Doyle would not leave his room. He was not attending the member's event, he was not attending the opening - he was going home to the familiar environs of St Helena Island.
Filled with patriotism, Doyle refreshed a number of his artworks with red, white and blue house paint. Rambling Rose, First Black Driver, Penn Roser House and others were bathed in patriotic hues. More than ten years had passed since his retirement, and the museum-like display that overflowed the yard of his small, two-storey house and adjacent workshop had evolved into the St Helena Out Door Art Gallery.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #61