The subjects of Sam Doyle's paintings are his community, the Island of St.
Helena. As a child in the early 1900's, Sam Doyle saw the migration first hand.
He himself was offered an opportunity, early on, to leave his island for New
York City by a sister of one of his teachers at the Penn
School. His refusal to migrate to New York for formal art training was a
direct function of his family's impoverished condition. Instead Sam Doyle remained
on the island, attending school until the 6th grade, and ultimately artistically
capturing the local color of the Carolina Sea Islands.
|The unique history of St. Helena island, a historically isolated African American community, gives a distinctly
Afro-Carolinian flavor to the natives. Many islanders are Gullah, who have continued their traditional way of life
after the fall of slavery during the Civil War. Doyle's paintings are an eclectic mix of local figures, historical
events, and religious depiction.
A self taught artist, Doyle paints on wood, scraps of metal, and anything that is conveniently found around the island. His art documents the community, prominently displaying important members of St. Helena. One of the most well known people on the island was Dr. Buzz. a Voodoo Doctor that listened to a conch shell for advice. Doyle also documented many of the firsts of his community. "The First Football Game on St. Helena Island" is an example of this.
Was A Guin Mon/U. Dig Me?, 1980.
||Doyle's commitment to the local community runs deeper than subject matter. While alive, Sam Doyle displayed his art work outside, arranged around his house. He looked after this painted community very closely, replacing the paintings that had been lost to the elements or sold. This dedication to accurate community representations reflects the tight knit nature of the African American community in the Carolina Lowlands. Its static nature, in the yard of Sam Doyle, also speaks to a certain sense of a timeless community set during a rapidly changing time.||