Sampson County native Esther Sampson has faced many obstacles in her life, and it’s those obstacles that led her to be part of an art exhibit in a museum.
Sampson’s portrait is part of Perceptions + Recognitions, a new body of work by internationally recognized photographer Burk Uzzle, who was commissioned by the Greenville Museum of Art. The exhibit includes 25 portraits of residents living in eastern North Carolina and will be on display through April 30.
“Being recognized and chosen to be one of the individuals used was an honor,” Sampson said. “I never thought in a million years that I would ever be chosen for something like this.”
According to a release from the museum, The Greenville Museum of Art opened 2017 with a new exhibition of works by Uzzle. This exhibition, which opened Feb. 3, was commissioned by the museum and sponsored by Smithfield Foods, where Sampson works. She says she has been a part of the Smithfield family for 12 years, but was with the previous company for 13 years.
Uzzle’s pieces are a celebratory collection of extraordinary contemporary African-Americans. The exhibit also references the American cultural history of race and includes 20 iconic photographs taken in Memphis and Atlanta in 1968 at the death and funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.
“Together, these two bodies of work frame both our history and potential, and reflect the honor of being Americans,” Uzzle said.
By choosing Sampson, Uzzle recognized the challenges the Clinton native has faced over the last few years.
“I had ovarian cancer and I am overcoming a lot of obstacles,” Sampson shared. “I don’t understand why they chose me, but they did, and I am honored.”
In making his choices for subjects of the photographs, Sampson said Uzzle likely considered the obstacles that she was able to overcome.
“With their grace, courage and strength, these portraits of contemporary African-Americans in eastern North Carolina have done us the honor of creating transcendent legacies for all to see,” Uzzle stated in the release. “Manifesting their individual stories as guiding lights, they have offered the camera internal radiance to share with the world.”
Through April, the museum is hosting workshops, panel discussions and concerts celebrating the African-American experience. On opening night, Sampson said she was joined by her family to take part in the unveiling of the art pieces.
“It was amazing to see it with my family there,” Sampson said.
Once the exhibit concludes, many of the photographs will become part of the museum’s permanent collection. Dewane Frutiger, chairman of the exhibition, said the museum felt the community and much of eastern North Carolina would want to visit the exhibit as it represents an integral part of the richness and history of the region.
Sampson is married to Thomas Sampson and they share five children and nine grandchildren.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.