As I was going into the Brookhaven Library to do an entirely different story the other day, I saw a bronze sculpture that looked awfully familiar to me. Then I realized, this is a miniature of the African American Civil War sculpture in the Vicksburg National Military Park. Library Director Henry Ledet told me why it is in Brookhaven.
“The sculpture is by Kim Sessums. He is a physician here in town," said Ledet. "He is an OBGYN specialist, but he is an incredibly talented artist as well.”
And as happens often in smaller towns sometimes, later that day I happened to bump into Dr. Sessums and we had a conversation about his art.
“Well Walt I, from the time I was a kid, I grew up in Scott County over in Forest," said Sessums. "My parents died when I was young and my brother and sister and I, we lived with my grandparents. We lived with my grandparents literally out on a gravel road. And we figured out if we were going to have some entertainment we were going to have to provide it for ourselves. So we all became creative people and I was making art from the time I was a kid.”
“In 1996 I had several doors just open to me that became really great opportunities," added Sessums. "I spent time with Billy Graham up in North Carolina and did his bust. ‘Course I did Miss Welty in Jackson before she died. And I did an American painter named Andrew Wyeth, went up to Pennsylvania and spent time with him. And that opened doors for me to have other opportunities.”
Two of the most accessible of his pieces to us in Mississippi are the African American monument in the Vicksburg National Park. And also the Mississippi Monument, which will in all likelihood be the last monument placed in the Shiloh National Park just north of Corinth in North East Mississippi just across the Tennessee line.
“So it’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve been able to do it in my studio in a small town in Mississippi," said Sessums. "I’ve tried to balance a career in medicine and having a family and making art. I hope I’ve done it all well. I guess time will tell.”
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