The Volunteer State Horsemen’s Foundation, the nonprofit organization which governs the Iroquois Steeplechase, recently made its annual selection of the race’s featured artist -- a tradition for the May event dubbed ‘Nashville’s Rite of Spring since 1941.’
Florida-based artist Debbie Sampson is producing a painting that will be used as the official artwork for the 2017 race, which is now in its 76th year and will be held on Saturday, May 13. The piece will be revealed in the Spring and auctioned off at the annual pre-race party the night before Steeplechase, with proceeds benefitting the nonprofit and the organizations it supports.
Self-taught from a young age and passionate about all things equestrian, Sampson has long been eager to use her talents to depict a steeplechasing scene.
“Horses have always been a main subject of my pieces and an interest of mine, and I love the action I can create by playing with the color and thickness of the paint with palette knives,” Sampson said. “It is an exciting process to show the movement of the horses jumping and bring out the emotion in their expressions.”
Dwight Hall, chairman of the Iroquois Steeplechase race committee, said the style of Sampson’s work and its variation from those chosen in recent years is what drew the selection team in.
“We were interested in shifting the style of the official artwork for this year, and Debbie’s submissions immediately caught our attention,” Hall said. “After speaking with her it was clear that our visions were aligned and we’re confident in her artistic ability to produce a piece that will represent the vibrant spirit of our race.”
The Volunteer State Horsemen’s Foundation initiated a search for interested artists in the fall, which Sampson came across and entered her work upon learning it was an opportunity for steeplechasing. She began to peruse photos from recent runnings of the Iroquois and quickly envisioned the scene she would paint if chosen.
“I find that my pieces really paint themselves,” Sampson said. “I’ll use oil paint with a combination of brush and palette knives through a layering process to create a three dimensional scene. When it really takes off on its own is the fun part for me. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to use my passion to be part of this iconic event.”
To learn more about Sampson and her work, visit www.artsports.com. For more information about pre-purchasing a limited-edition print, call the Iroquois Steeplechase offices at 615-591-2991.