(1931 - 2017)
Ossie Lee Samuels was born in Wilcox County, Georgia, on November 18, 1931. The artist left home when he was eight and found various odd jobs around the country, including working as a farmer, professional boxer, and tree surgeon. While working as a tree surgeon in 1982, Samuels was seriously injured and had to spend a lengthy recovery in a wheelchair. The accident sent him into a deep depression, until he remembered his grandmother's advice to carve wood whenever he was down. This was the beginning of Samuels' artistic career.
Samuels worked mainly with found wood such as tree trunks, roots, and old wood furniture, which he would carve for months at a time. Although color blind, Samuels paints several layers of wild, expressive colors, "using every color so he doesn't leave any out." He is known for his imaginative images, featuring dreamlike figures, and mythical creatures, each with a story about its existence. Samuels' preference is to carve images of horses, which he says are "the most prideful of all the animals." His work often has a spiritual message, as Samuels became a lay minister later in life.
O.L. Samuels lived in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife and used his living room as a workshop. He is considered one of the most talented self-taught artists in America by museums across the country. Samuels' work is part of several permanent collections, including the Arkansas Arts Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Gadsden Art Center.
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