Sidney Zemp: ‘Artwork changed my life’

Jerry E. Halmon, Staff Reporter

Bamberg self-taught Artist Sidney Zemp becomes emotional when he talks about how artwork has changed his life. “It changed me from the inside. It changed the whole course and direction of my life,” Zemp said Monday afternoon.

Zemp spoke candidly about how he got involved in the “party scene” as a younger man where “one thing led to another” and him ending up addicted to drugs, robbing a bank, and doing 20 years of a 23-year prison sentence in federal prison.

He said that it was in prison, when he was locked up and became sober that he knew he had to do something to pass away the time. So he told himself that with the help of God he was going to learn how to draw portraits. After much trial and error, Zemp said he could see that he had the ability to do artwork.

“I would lie in bed and ask God to let me do this,” he said. One day he noticed that his hands, eyes and brain “all came together at the same time.” Zemp noted that becoming an artist, while still incarcerated “started making him feel equal” and made him want to “strive to do better things in life.” “It’s like a piece of me in each one of these,” he said Monday afternoon, looking around the room, at the huge display of his work. Zemp's artwork was on display Sunday afternoon at Cedar Oaks, 56 Phoenix Ct., Bamberg.

Zemp credits his name recognition as an artist in large part to his mother Annette Dwight of Bamberg, who faithfully marketed his work from 2000-2004 while he was still incarcerated, “she did lots of work,” Zemp said of his mother and to Lorelle Wise of Bamberg, who purchased his first graphite painting. Wise allowed him to do portraits of her grandchildren. “From Lorelle doing that it just took off. More people started seeing my work and wanted it. I knew I had tapped into something.”

In reference to Sunday's art show, he said that it was something “he had been thinking about for years” wondering how it would turnout and if people would show up and support him.

“It was amazing because I was in my element when I was out there. It’s just amazing the support I’m getting and the support of the community just makes me want to give back.”

And, giving back to the community is just what he plans to do. His plans are to open an art studio in the plaza on Main Highway across from the SCB&T Office in Bamberg hopefully in August. He plans to teach art classes as well as doing prints and other activities.

Zemp also wants to start a non-profit to bring artistic activities to the community.

“I’m very excited, I have lots of commissions lined up and receiving a lot of support from the community. It’s been great, awesome. This is who I am. I am an artist, this is what I do.”