Frank Sampson’s work has been exhibited in an impressive diversity of venues. A shortlist demonstrates the cross-cultural appeal of his work: the U. S. Library of Congress, Belgium, Brazil, Tokyo, the Denver Art Museum; the Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum, Kansas City; the Berkeley Art Center; the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska; the Minnesota Museum of Art, St. Paul; the Boston Public Library.
Sampson is eighty years old, vibrant, and excited about this new body of work. He was born on a farm in North Dakota in 1928. His first relationship to animals was friendly but functional; they raised animals to supplement a meager farm income and diet, and horses to work the fields.
Unlike the beasts of burden Sampson recalls from his childhood, the animals in his paintings are equal participants in human activities. They are not symbols; he is drawing upon their indeterminacy (lovable and cute/ferocious/sinister) and upon a fantasy of humans learning from and interacting as equals with animals. He cites Grimm’s fairy tales as an influence, but there is nothing grim about his animals; neither is there anything idyllic. Pigs, sheep, and giraffes participate as humans in human activities, with expressions neither joyful nor anxious, lending a mischievous quality to the activity. The viewer completes the narrative, which is a deeply satisfying experience.
He received a rigorous classical education in art, including an MFA degree in painting from the University of Iowa, and three years of printmaking. Early in his career he, won a Fulbright Fellowship to Belgium, which resulted in an exhibition of his work in Luxembourg, sponsored by the American Embassy. A year in Japan strongly influenced his work, and resulted in several exhibitions. He is Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts, at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and resides in what he calls “a hobbit house” in Boulder.