J. Kim Sessums

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Winter 2008 South Mississippi Scene Magazine www.smscene.com


<p>personalities: dr. kim sessums</p> <p>j. kim sessums a study of character &amp; style</p> <p>T</p> <p>The birth of a child and the creation of art may seem to be unrelated events, yet they share an amazing connection in that both are capable of evoking emotions from deep within the human spirit. Passion and enthusiasm, combined with an unyielding determination, have allowed Dr. J. Kim Sessums, of Brookhaven, to witness and</p> <p>participate in such moving occasions on almost a daily basis for more than 20 years. While most of his days and nights are devoted to his family and working diligently as an obstetrician/gynecologist, Sessums still finds time to express himself artistically through writing, drawing, painting, and sculpting. I had to figure a way to</p> <p>work in my art in my life and my schedule, he said. It helps to keep me grounded. Some of the well-known pieces that have kept him grounded include bronze portrait busts of several American icons, including Eudora Welty, Andrew Wyeth and Billy Graham. In order to incorporate his love for art in his daily duties,</p> <p>SSTORY BY KIM WINDMILLER PHOTOS AND ART COURTESY J. KIM SESSUMS</p> <p>42 south mississippi scene</p> <p>Frying Chicken Print (pencil)</p> <p>he created a mobile studio that allows him to work when a window of time opens up, even if its only for 15 minutes. Sometimes Sessums finds time to sketch or write down an idea while waiting on a patient to deliver at the hospital or if a patient cancels an appointment at the office (Brookhaven OB-GYN Associates). Laughing, he admits theres probably even some sketches on patient charts because he had to jot down an idea as it came to him. I guess Im a bit compulsive. When I get something on my mind, Im gonna find a way to work it into my schedule, he said. The remarkable drive Sessums possesses can be traced back to his childhood in a rural area near Forrest, Mississippi. By the age of six, he had survived the separate deaths of his parents, losing his father in a car accident, and losing his mother to cancer. Sessums and his brother Kevin, who was eight at the time, and their sister Karole, who was only four, continued their childhood with their grandparents, Malcolm and Joyce Britt. Looking back, Sessums realizes the task of taking on 3 small children was certainly a great sacrifice, but one that his grandparents embraced whole-heartedly. My grandfather and grandmother were a great influence on me from the standpoint that they lived for others, he said. They denied themselves and their desires, in order to meet the needs of others. His grandparents always encouraged Sessums and his siblings to express themselves. The children did so by using their vivid imaginations in everything they did, first in their play, and later in various artistic ways. His brother is now a journalist, living in New York, and working on his second book. His sister is an art dealer, who recently organized the exhibition Backyards and Beyond, a tribute to Mississippi Gulf Coast residents surviving after Hurricane Katrina. Sessums believes one of the greatest contributions to his creativity arose from overcoming boredom and loneliness</p> <p>Clockwise from Top Left Good News, Portrait of Billy Graham, bronze Mugwump, Civil War, bronze Vicksburg Campaign (Final Design), Civil War, bronze The Road Less Traveled, Andrew Wyeth, bronze</p> <p>south mississippi scene 45</p> <p>Left Photo Nettie May, Print (pencil) Bottom Photo Metal Fan Rocker, Print (pencil)</p> <p>in a small town. It led him to the unexpected joy of studying the character and form of those around him. Whether black, white, old or young people, their every nuance was committed to his memory and later recorded in written journals. Eventually, those childhood memories and emotions became pieces of visual art. His works include everything from a 1977 sketch of his Aunt Gladys and a 1979 sketch of his grandfather sitting on his carport, to a monumental sculptural tribute in the Vicksburg National Military Park for African descendants who participated in the Vicksburg Campaign. It is the only figurative monument to honor the Colored Troops in any Civil War park in America. Many of Sessums works portray African-American life in the South, something that has always intrigued him since he was able to observe it firsthand as a child on his uncles cotton farm. Theres something about the character and the steadfastness of the farmhands, he said, adding that it made him have a true appreciation for the blessings in his life. Not only was he moved by his constant artistic observations, but he was also bothered by them because it showed him the reality that life just isnt easy. Sessums said famous or not, his subjects all strike emotion-</p> <p>al chords that are first explored in his ongoing journal, in which he records his thoughts and delves further into each work to discover a deeper connection to his own life. Thus begins his creative process. As the artist himself has noted, All good art should move us to a place deeper than the surface of our own existence, revealing the human experience and prompting us to discover how deep our own emotions go. Sessums realized years ago that he no longer needed to search for his artistic style. After a lifetime spent exploring his creative instincts, it had found him. Following high school, his creative instincts first led him to Mississippi State Universitys architect program, which helped him learn more about depth of field, but he didnt feel like he was meant to be an architect. He switched colleges and attended Belhaven, where he played basketball and changed his major to biology. During that time, he got a job working at a hospital and realized how much he enjoyed interacting with the patients. Sessums felt moved and thus he started on the path toward a career in medicine. He also discovered the love of his life, Kristy, whom hes been married to for 30 years. She is what helps me get up in the morning and keep going,</p> <p>said Sessums. They have four children: Jake, 25; Joey, 24; Stewart; 21; and Price, 19. After graduating from medical school, Sessums trained 2 years in New Orleans and 2 years in Jackson. By 1988, he and long-time friend Dr. Steve Mills were looking for a place to set up their practice in a friendly small town. As fate would have it, many of the community leaders in Brookhaven were looking to expand the medical facilities in the area, which were extremely limited at the time. We looked at Brookhaven and we felt it fit, even though there was a lot of work to be done, remembered Sessums. Now the clinic has grown to include 4 doctors who have delivered almost 10,000 babies. Sessums is grateful for the success of the clinic, and how its success allows him to keep his hobby alive. Im fortunate enough that I can provide for my family and still have my art, but not feel pressure to sell things, he remarked. In 1996, Sessums had the honor of creating a bronze portrait bust of the renowned painter Andrew Wyeth, whose career took off in 1937 when the American realist painter and regionalist artist was only 20 years old. Much of the detail work on the bust was done after Sessums had the pleasure of being invited to the studio and home of</p> <p>south mississippi scene 47</p> <p>personalities: dr. kim sessums</p> <p>the man who Sessums calls his mentor, unknowingly to Wyeth. Early on in life, I ran into the works of Andrew Wyeth, and I think I was more intrigued because there had to be a story behind what he was doing, he said. It was such a tremendous experience to speak with and spend time with one of the legends of art. Its an opportunity I will never forget. The finished bronze, along with a plaster casting, are now in the Wyeths private collection. The same year, Sessums was commissioned to create a portrait bust of Dr. Winfred Wiser, a surgical mentor and friend, for the Winfred Wiser Women and Infant Hospital on the campus of the University Medical Center in Jackson. The following year, Sessums was fortunate enough to meet another artist who also greatly influenced his career, not only with her award-winning writing, but also especially by her black and white photography. He remembers what a pleasure</p> <p>it was to sit in the presence of Pulitzer prize-winner Eudora Welty in her Jackson home as he completed her portrait bust. When finished, Sessums asked the witty writer what she thought of the bust. Her answer was nonetheless characteristic of her unique style. I hesitate to offer an opinion of my own likeness, she said. Now, should you ask if I prefer strawberry or vanilla ice cream, I could say, without reservation, vanilla. In 1998, the Sessums spent 2 days with evangelist Billy Graham in his North Carolina mountain-top log cabin home, where Sessums completed the only figurative portrait of Graham. Sessums recently completed the portrait bust of the accomplished former U.S. Congressman from Mississippi, the late G.V. Sonny Montgomery. The life-size bronze is now installed at Mississippi State University, where Montgomery attended college; and a second casting is in the U.S. Military Museum at</p> <p>Camp Shelby. Montgomery was and Army and National Guard veteran, who died at the age of 85 in 2006. A monumental public art commission, called Bearing One Anothers Burdens, was unveiled and dedicated on Oct. 8, at the Pine Grove Treatment Center in Hattiesburg. His most recent work, an over life-size full body portrait of College Football Hall of Fame Coach John H. Vaught, who served as head football coach for 25 years at University of Mississippi, leading teams to 6 Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles and a share of 3 national championships, was unveiled Nov. 1, outside the Vaught Hemingway Stadium. Despite maintaining a private studio environment at his Brookhaven home, with increasing curiosity and enthusiasm, more and more collectors are discovering Sessums writing, drawing, painting and sculpting, as he creates works to be read, viewed and held.</p> <p>Photo Clockwise Top Left Oldest Boy, Giclee (pastel) Waiting for My Boy, Giclee (pastel) Three Generations, Pastel on sand coated paper For more information about the artist or his work, visit www.jkimsessums.com</p> <p>48 south mississippi scene</p>


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