Born as Mark Teemer in Sacramento, Akinsanya Kambon is a former Marine, Black Panther, and art professor. Stricken with polio as a child, he turned to drawing for comfort, and ultimately his therapy. He recalls in his adolescence frequent visits to the Crocker Art Museum, which fascinated him and showed him the human potential in creating art. He served a tour of duty in Vietnam with the United States Marine Corps from 1966–1968. Shortly thereafter, he created The Black Panther Coloring Book to bring attention to racial inequality and social injustice. Despite being only semi-literate in his youth, Kambon went on to earn his Master’s of Fine Art from California State University, Fresno. In more recent years, he was featured in Wartorn: 1861–2010, an HBO documentary screened at the Pentagon on post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans.
Today, Kambon’s work is as rich and varied as his personal history, expressed through drawings, paintings, bronze sculptures, and ceramics. This exhibition focuses specifically on the artist’s terra-cotta sculptures, which are fired using the Western-style raku technique — a challenging, dangerous, and unpredictable process that creates prismatic and iridescent glaze finishes. He performs kiln firings in a ceremonial manner, breathing life into ceramic figures that typically represent African deities and spirits and, sometimes, American history and religious subjects. Drawing heavily on narrative tradition and personal experiences, including extensive travels throughout Africa, Kambon’s work celebrates perseverance through hardship, cultural pride, and his gift as a storyteller.