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A fugitive who escaped a prison in Mississippi 34 years ago and turned up in Carbon County last week, had his art work exhibited in USU Eastern’s Gallery East in November 2014.
Sam Gene Harris was arrested Thursday at his home in Wellington, where he had lived under the name Wayne Edward Stevens, according to Carbon County Sheriff Jeff Wood. The sheriff said when he arrested Harris that he said you’ve got the wrong man. Harris’ (Stevens’) fingerprints verified that he was Sam Gene Harris.
He’s been living there for 23 years right under everybody’s noses, Wood said.
KSL.com reported Harris, 62, was serving a four-year sentence for shoplifting and possession of burglary tools when he escaped from prison in November 1980, according to Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Tara Scott.
In the Huffington Post, authorities said he also escaped from jails in Oregon before landing in Wellington. The article quoted Wood as saying Harris had at least 10 different aliases and also has a criminal history in Florida and Georgia.
The Sun Advocate article about the arrest stated Stevens was able to get a Utah driver’s license and had dealings with local law enforcement under the Stevens’ alias.
In an article in The Eagle on Nov. 13, 2014, Stevens described how he came to live in Castle Country. He said he didn’t expect to end up in a small Central Utah town, where he now resides. He was living in Florida when he sold his home and happened to be driving west on Highway 6 and came upon his current home and studio in Wellington.
Stevens said he lived in Wellington for nine years and enjoyed his experience in the bluffs and foothills of Carbon County. Stevens, known to his friends and admirers as “Stev,” said he is originally from New York State, near Niagra Falls. His father and brothers were artists (painters); his uncles were painters as well, so he grew up around art as a boy.
His paintings in the exhibit represented Stevens’ fascination with the repeating patterns in the natural world. Fractals, as they are called, can be visibly seen in micro-organisms, but they also appear mathematically, as replicating geometrical shapes.
“We know that there are patterns in nature…even in chaos. That’s how it is in the molecular world,” Stevens said. “We are in a colorful kaleidoscope world that we might not see, but we know is there. I am trying to visualize this in my work.”
The colors and shapes may look chaotic up close, but as we back away from it, they come together visually. “I believe we have energy and patterns inside of us that I would like to bring out and represent in my work,” Stevens said.
Stevens said he regularly exhibits and sells his work in Northern Arizona and Florida. He shows his work in community fairs and arts festivals. He said he has paintings in public and private collections.
USU Eastern art associate professor Noel Carmack was shocked to hear about Stevens’ arrest. Carmack said he has always been supportive of the gallery and helped him fix the marquee and spackle walls before his exhibit with Tori Meng Dastrup in November.
An Eastern student said Harris was seen at numerous “single dances” in the area. She said her mother had danced with him numerous times.