Femficātiō Perspectives: Sam Grisham

Sam Grisham is speaking…

“I selected these works because I  think they are representative of my painting style and my voice, my soul-stuff, that which I care about deeply.”

1. How did your artistic journey begin?

“I could say my visual art journey began when I wrote a novel, hit a brick wall and signed up for a painting class to jump-start my writing muse.

However, the truth is my visual art journey began long ago when I was a youngster

drawing dragons and doodling fairies and elves and gnomes in crayon and water paint.

I drew on the headboard I shared with my sisters.

I doodled all over our dresser and mirror, the bedroom walls, the closet walls, my oldest sister’s notebooks and any unmarked available surface.

But… I grew up in a place where visual art was not seen as a viable means of support and I wasn’t encouraged to pursue art.  When I became old enough to understand what was expected of me, despite that I was much too young to be so intuitive, I set aside the doodling for what I understood were more important things.  Over time, I forgot the unbridled joy I experienced in drawing and creating pictures.

I forgot that I doodled.

As I put the time in for my various 9-to-5’s, I understood more and more that my core required a creative outlet and so I kept a journal, wrote poetry and short stories.  Writing became a critical and effective component to my survival but my writing was also a clue because my poems and stories are very visual.  In fact, my first book of poems, in collaboration with a friend, was entitled “We Paint Poems”.  But, it wasn’t until I started painting pictures with oil onto canvas that I realized how significant the role of my poems and stories.  Writing, while especially dear to me, was a placeholder for my first love, my truest love, my doodling.”

The pieces “She Didn’t Want To …”, “Damaged”, and “Queen as Pawn” deal specifically with the response of women who are physically and/or emotionally abused… Abuse shames women and we work very hard to cover it up. It is not logical that the victim is shamed but it is truth.Sam discussing her art, this piece “She Didn’t Want To…” 18×24 oil on canvas.

2.  Does your art construct or deconstruct?

Established notions of morality, societal mores, etc., often are contradictory and non-conducive for the evolution of humankind as these notions are a hotbed for the creation of various categories and assumptions which act as inhibitors as much as identifiers. 

I believe we have more in common than the boundaries our identifiers, the color of skin, our sexual orientation or religion or philosophies or politics, would imply.

As a species, we are related on levels that defy categorization…

…so I would have to say my intent with my art is to deconstruct the notions that, in my mind, support categorization.

Another piece dealing with the physical and emotional abuse of women: “Sometimes in that moment of unshielded clarity, the sadness of abuse is revealed, sometimes anger. Most times, it is cold indifference that settles in and scabs over, not only sealing the wounds in an effort to protect against re-entry but effectively sealing off the abused from the rest of the world.” Sam and “Queen as Pawn”, 24×36 oil on gallery wrap canvas

From the perspective of a student of art and the technical application of art, an area that presents frequent struggle for me is ‘sanctioned’ artistic technique.  The professional art world reeks of sanctions (and the categories defined and developed to support those sanctions) that are imposed on both the artist and the art lover and, while I don’t want to lessen the importance and benefit of tried and true techniques and methodologies, I do believe the artist palette must always be on guard against the self-censure that can result from exposure and adherence to sanctions and status quo.

Self-censure is the artist’s double edged sword.

It is a tool that can be friend or enemy, capable of moving the artist forward but also capable of corrupting individualism and squelching the artist’s voice.”

“Eshu is another God of the Yoruba pantheon and one of my favorites. He has many names but my favorite is The Trickster. He lives at the crossroads and his business is choice, chance and trickery. He does not care which door you choose only that you are aware it is you who makes the choice and it is you who must abide the consequence. Choose wisely or be fooled.” Sam and Eshu’s Bizness, 30×48 on gallery wrap canvas

3.  If the world was less violent (all forms of violence, poverty, destruction, physical) would your art be different from what it is today?

“I have been subjected to the violence of our world and I am a product of that violence.

I have endured violence, witnessed violence, inflicted it, wrote about it and painted it. 

I cannot be separate from what is and it cannot be separate from me.  But … if the world was less violent, surely there would be more butterflies and unicorns and fields of happy-ever-after on my canvas.”

“I painted Black and Gold in response to privatization of this country’s prison systems, institutions re-designed to capitalize and profit from the incarceration of young Black men. It doesn’t matter how small the infraction or how true. The prisons today like the plantations of yesterday need to be filled and it is our young men that fill them.” Sam on “Black and Gold”, 22×30 oil on canvas

4.  What do you refuse to ignore?

“Color is the flavor of living.

It cannot be ignored.

All other elements are meaningful when and if demanded by the composition and… The Muse.”

“Damaged… deals with women who are physically and/or emotionally abused…this is a theme I visit frequently. I think there is an expectation that abuse is something the world can see like a black eye or a broken leg and, while that obvious type of abuse surely exists…. abuse is often well hidden and can only be spied in that moment when the abused has let down her guard. Sam discussing “Damaged” 18×24 oil over sand and modeling paste on canvas

5.  Why do you think you are an artist? 

“I am an artist because

there is nothing else

I aspire to be.”

“Yemaya’s Reclamation represents the damage we are doing to our planet and the possible future that waits…. The first panel portrays a desolate…world, void of humanity, stripped of nature and sustenance. In the second panel Yemaya has reclaimed the planet for her oceans. Yemaya is a Mother God of Yoruba whose representation as mermaid came about as a result of the theft and transport of millions of Africans across the oceans into slavery.” Sam on Yemaya’s Reclamation, 18×24 water and ink on 2 panels


Sam’s Art-forms:  Surrealism / Realism / Oil / Mixed-Media / Literature
Place on the Globe:  Atlanta, Georgia
Where you can find Sam’s Work: http://www.samgrisham.com


Femficātiō Perspectives is a dash of colour and culture from artists, musicians, writers, politicians and activists around the world. People who change the shape of things. 

If there is a “shaper” you would like to see featured in perspectives email info@femficatio.com.

2 thoughts on “Femficātiō Perspectives: Sam Grisham

  1. You are so wonderful!!! I’ve become obsessed with your blog and I spend most of my time reading all your posts. And I signed up JUST to post comments. I wish I’d
    found out about sooner, and I wish you updated as much as you did in the past!
    You must be super busy now though because you’re so famous!!

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