Arts Craft Arts

Feature Artist: George Cadell

Rhythm. George Cadell, artist

By Gina Malone

Born and reared in Fort Cobb, Oklahoma, sculptor George Cadell grew up among Native Americans and families descended from the first white settlers of the area when it was known as Washita, or Big Hunt Country. “When working on a piece depicting a Native American, I rely on my relationships with those I was fortunate enough to know as I was growing up in western OK,” Cadell says. “One in particular was a neighbor, Tennyson Berry, the last chief of the Kiowa-Apaches, living on the land next to that my family owned. I remember watching Tennyson and his friend Henry Tanedooah mounted on their Indian ponies riding proudly in the manner of an earlier day. There is so much misinformation about the Native American. In my work, I want to depict them as intelligent people who care about the land and nature so important to them.”

The Commitment. George Cadell, artist

Cadell established himself as a landscape painter before turning to sculpture. He likes to work in welded steel and bronze cast from a clay sculpture. He earned a B.A. in art from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and a Master’s from The University of Central Oklahoma and worked as an art instructor for 10 years in Oklahoma City Public Schools and for 25 years in Denton, TX Public Schools. Many of his students have stayed in contact with him through the years, and it was always his wish, he says, to help them understand what life is all about and to encourage their creative expression through their artwork. After all, it was an art instructor who first convinced him to continue his studies in art.

Growing up, he spent hours listening to stories and legends about early days on the banks of the Washita River. That lore and his love of nature and wildlife figure into the subjects he portrays and the style in which he creates. When doing a piece of a buffalo, for instance, he remembers the words of an elderly Native American man he knew growing up: “When the buffalo leaves, so will our way of life.”

Many of his sculptures depict animals: buffalo, deer, rabbits. Often his paintings show structures—barns, abandoned houses, a blacksmith shop—that have aged into the land around them. “When doing a piece of art, whether a painting or a piece of sculpture, I try to put myself in the place of that person, or try to think of the feelings of the animal I am working on,” Cadell says. “Every thing or everyone has feelings. I want to show those feelings, either in expressions or movement. I feel I am always creating, whether it’s in my mind or actually working physically on a painting or sculpture. Many times when I observe subject matter I begin to create in my mind how I can depict it in a manner that will convey a message.”

His work may be seen all over the country, small pieces in private collections and large pieces commissioned for public enjoyment. He still accepts commissions, but says that works created are smaller in scale than ones he created in the past. Goals include continuing to grow as an artist and doing more of the landscapes that were his first love as an artist.

At Caldwell Arts Council’s nationally recognized Sculpture Celebration in Lenoir last year, his sculpture After the Storm won Best in Show. Created by welding pieces of metal, the graceful piece shows a heron standing over her nest after it was broken by a storm. He plans to participate in this year’s show on September 10.

Buffalo. George Cadell, artist

Family has been important in his artistic development, he says, offering encouragement and well-placed criticism when needed. Early on, his sister Norma praised and cheered his efforts, and his late wife Pat, talented herself as a watercolor artist, was one of his favorite critics. “She was very truthful,” Cadell says. “If she liked what I was trying to do, she let me know. If not, she would let me know what bothered her.” He and Pat moved to Bakersville to be close to their children—George Wayne Cadell and Melisa Cadell—and grandchildren.

One of his favorite contemporary artists, he says, is his daughter Melisa, also a sculptor and a teacher at Mitchell High School. “Her desire to create has had a great influence on my life,” he says. “She not only teaches her students the importance of art but also the importance of being all they can be in life.”

To learn more, visit GeorgeCadellStudio.com or find on Facebook and Instagram @GeorgeCadellStudio. Cadell’s work is available at Bella Gallery, 112-A Cherry Street, in Black Mountain and at Sweetgrass Artisan Mercantile, 23 Crimson Laurel Way, in Bakersville. George Cadell Studio, in Bakersville, is open by appointment only.

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