SAM DOYLE (1906-1985)


Sam Doyle hailed from a small South Carolina coastal island called Saint Helena; here the island natives proudly preserved their Gullah culture’s traditions and language. In 1927 the island was linked to the mainland through the construction of a series of bridges and residents such as Doyle crossed them to seek employment. By 1943 Doyle responded to a growing internal pull to return to Saint Helena and his Gullah culture, bringing with him his wife and three children. Here Doyle stayed until his death in 1985. While maintaining full time employment and acting as a full time father, Doyle still found time to express himself artistically. After nearly twenty years of marriage, Doyle and his wife divorced; she and the children all moved north and Doyle himself retired and devoted his time to his artistic endeavors.

Doyle often used salvaged litter and found objects such as wooden boards and corrugated roofing metal that he covered in house paint to render his lively portraits. These works often depict local community leaders and historical figures from his home island of Saint Helena. Often included alongside a portrait will be bold text describing their importance and value in the community. Using his own yard as a makeshift museum to display his works, Doyle proudly named his collection the Saint Helena Outdoor Gallery. Doyle earned further celebrity when his work was given a national audience in the 1982 exhibition Black Folk Art in America 1930-1980 in the Smithsonian’s Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C.