Frank Sampson: Land of Hearts Desire

August 15 – November 13, 2023


An exhibition in honor of Frank Sampson’s forthcoming catalog.

Inspired by a love of story-telling and a fascination with animals and art history, Frank Sampson has built a career that has reached a pinnacle in the art community. Sampson, 96, a native of rural Edmore who lives in Boulder, Colo., has earned a reputation as one of the most esteemed artists in that state. His work has been shown in numerous art galleries nationwide, including the U.S. Library of Congress and in Belgium, Brazil, and Tokyo. Sampson taught painting, printmaking, and drawing at the University of Colorado for twenty-nine years until he retired in 1990. His artwork is whimsical and often involves a story or relationship.

“In general, I like a sense of mystery, almost a little surreal,” he said. Animals figure prominently in his paintings — sometimes appearing as fantastical human-like figures — which he attributes to his early experience on his family’s farm. “I was very attracted to animals from the beginning, more than some people perhaps,” he said. “I enjoyed them, and I participated with them in the sense of taking care of the pigs now and then, milking the cows and gathering eggs from the chickens. “I found them beautiful in a strange way, and when I went off to college, I took art, and before too long, I realized that animals appealed to me a lot, and, in my subconscious, they came forward and influenced quite a bit of the subject matter,” he said.

In the summer of 2019, the North Dakota Museum of Art launched a career retrospective of Sampson’s work. Over sixty paintings capture his mother’s fantastical stories of the circus coming to town, biblical tales, and mythological creatures to entertain Sampson and his five brothers. After the exhibition closed, Sampson donated all of the paintings to the Museum, as it was important that a bulk of his work remained in his home state.

This fall, the Museum will release a publication of his life’s work titled Land of Heart’s Desire: The Magic Realism of Frank Sampson, a 134-page, 9 x 9″ hardcover catalog detailing his work from the 1950s to the present.

Frank Sampson, Swan Song, 2006.
Oil, acrylic, gator board.
Gift from the artist.

Land of Heart’s Desire: The Magic Realism of Frank Sampson, 2023.