Walk Down Sampsonia Way: Just Be Good

by    /  June 11, 2010  / 3 Comments

Lake working in 320 Sampsonia Way

When Silvia Duarte interviewed saxophonist and painter Oliver Lake for our May issue, he had just started sketching out his ideas for the Oliver House, the latest “house publication” of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. House publications are homes on Sampsonia Way adorned with original artworks and writings. Writers in exile and visiting writers stay in these houses when they visit COA/P. (READ about the first house publication).

Sketches of the outside of the house

Since the interview Lake has been hard at work, creating paintings that will fit in the nooks and crannies inside 320 Sampsonia Way. He has also finalized sketches for the murals that will cover the outside walls of the house.

Paintings inside the shelves in the front room of 320 Sampsonia Way

His inspiration is, in part, a strange character he remembers haunting the neighborhood he grew up in in Marianna, Arkansas. “Every neighborhood has one,” he said.

Shelves, detail

This man would walk around in a topcoat and hat, even in the sweltering summer. He covered his coat in safety pins and when ever he met a child, he could pin one of their shirt and declare that they are now in the “17 Club.” When young Oliver received his pin, he asked what he had to do to be in the club. The man replied, “just be good.”

Shelves, detail

Safety pins are a motif in his work as is the phrase “just be good.”

Saxophones also make an appearance as do the wordsPassin’ Thru,” which refers both to Lake’s record label and to the idea that we are passing through this life.

Read Elizabeth’s bio.

About the Author

Elizabeth Hoover earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Indiana University, where she received a Project on African Expressive Traditions grant and the Won-Joon Yon Scholarship for Racial Tolerance. She has written for American Heritage, Life, and Poets and Writers. Her criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She has published poetry in The Adirondack Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and the Atlanta Review. Recently, New Letters nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. Hoover is a former associate editor at Sampsonia Way.

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  • The colors on the white wall are great.

    Good work.

  • i love the vibrant colors. bright colors to me have a hidden history that is not always colorful. i love the book shelves. looking forward to more photographs.

  • admin

    Thanks for your comments. We will be documenting the mural as it develops so check back for more photos!