Samuel Formica (b. 1964, Chester County) is a self-taught painter who lives in Philadelphia, PA. His personal history is equally as complex and triumphant as his paintings. Growing up in poverty in a trailor park in Elverson, PA, a farm town near Reading, Formica loved to draw, but he never considered that becoming an artist was a possibility. As a teenager he became addicted to drugs and found himself homeless, living out of a van, yet even when he was at his most strung-out, he never stopped drawing.
In 1985, Formica was discovered by the late artist agent, Ola Jones, and he received his first solo exhibit in 1987 in Pottstown, PA. Upon her discovery, Jones immediately encouraged Formica to trade in his drugs for brushes. Twenty-two years later, he is still drug-free, and his paintings have since been exhibited in more than twenty-five international solo and group shows; published in Art Now, Art Matters, The Pew Trust, and American History Magazine; collected by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, President Jimmy Carter, and Donald Trump; and recently honored by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary commission and placed in the official Ben Franklin Tercentenary exhibit catalogue, In Search of a Better World (Yale University Press). 

Supporting his work as an artist, Formica has worked as a truck mechanic, Goodyear tire salesman, army Private, bartender, restaurant manager, Elvis impersonator, and worked in a paper mill for seven years. From 1995-2005, he worked at Ristorante Panorama, an Italian restaurant with the largest wine-by-the-glass program in the US, where he developed an appreciation for wine and began collecting corks from the best wines they distributed. This ten-year collection of corks inspired a new series of paintings titled, Le Quattro Stagione del Vino, which he began in 2004.

Formica's work has become highly collectible, as he paints only two to three new pieces per year. Dense with allusion and vibrant colors, his paintings have been lauded by US presidents, including Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Gerald Ford, for their vigorous depiction of the history of America. “A wonderful portrayal of American history,” said President George H. W. Bush, and Frank R. Wolf, Member of Congress, House of Representatives stated, “truly an original with phenomenal meaning.”

In 2005, Formica was commissioned by Stephen Patron, President and CEO of Paradigm Realty Alliance, to do a painting celebrating historic Elfreth's Alley, the oldest residential street in the nation located in Old City, Philadelphia. Looking to the Future, Formica's 2003 painting chronicles more than one hundred scenes of historical triumphs and tragedies. It took him three years to complete . His early work included pictograms, op-art, and neo-graffiti on canvas and was often considered symbolic and gritty.

Formica's diversity as an artist is apparent in more than his paintings. In addition to his visual art, he is an award-winning Elvis impersonator, known to his fans as Sammy J. At the age of 18, when Formica was a private in the Army, he began performing Elvis impersonations for his fellow troops at Fort Benning, GA. One of the fastest rising Elvis tribute artists in the world, he has appeared on TV, international stages, and has been photographed for Fortune Magazine.

samuel j. formica



Samuel Formica (b. 1964, Chester County) is a self-taught painter who lives in Philadelphia, PA.