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Sam Gilliam (b. November 30, 1933) is a Color Field Painter and Lyrical Abstractionist artist. Gilliam, an African American, is associated with the Washington Color School and is broadly considered a Color field painter. His works have also been described as belonging to Abstract Expressionism and Lyrical Abstraction. He works on stretched, draped, and wrapped canvas, and adds sculptural 3D elements. He is recognized as the first artist to introduce the idea of a painted canvas hanging without stretcher bars c.1965, a major contribution to the Color Field School.

Sam Gilliam was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and was the seventh of eight children to Sam and Estery Gilliam. He received his B.A. in fine art and his M.A. in painting from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He has taught at the Corcoran School of Art, the Maryland Institute College of Art and Carnegie Mellon University.

“I am a better artist today in that I am obviously a better teacher. Whether I am teaching or making art, the process is fundamentally the same: I am creating.” “Only when making the work can I determine the many languages that form the planes on which it is to exist. Like abstract phrases the many intentions of the work (before an audience) passes through an intuitive sieve… The work was not planned, there are ploys, however, to the way it was laid out and then put together.” 1996 –Sam Gilliam.