Art for everyone

Written by: 
Khashan Poitier

For 30 years, George Cadell has contorted steel and bronze into thought-provoking, emotional pieces for collectors and the public alike.

Artist George Cadell has a gallery as big as the United States. In fact, the U.S. is his gallery, with welded steel and bronze sculptures as far as California and North Carolina in homes of private buyers. However, it is his public art in Denton County and Oklahoma City of which he is most proud.

An Oklahoman, Cadell, who attended North Texas from 1974 to 1979 to study bronzing, is inspired by Southwest Native American culture and wildlife. For the past 30 years, he has lured collectors with his ability to contort steel and bronze into thought-provoking, emotional pieces. Whether it’s an old man’s grimace or the vibrancy of playful peacocks, Cadell captures heart-filled moments and encapsulates them at Texas’ public landmarks.

He says he finds public art gratifying, as it grows his viewership with people who otherwise may not be able to afford such pieces.

“When I do a sculpture for public art, I know that it has the opportunity to communicate to more people,” he says. “Private purchases mean that it will be there for only a few people to enjoy. Although many people may not have the money, they still can enjoy my public work.”

Commissioned by the city of Denton in 2009, he created a bronze statue that depicts Denton’s transformation from a prairie town to a collegiate, commercial city. Today, Above All Integrity sits in front of City Hall East near the center of Denton’s downtown area. And greeting West Tenth Baptist Church’s congregation in Oklahoma City is Cadell’s Christ Bearing His Cross made from welded steel.

Cadell also has a sculpture at Aubrey High School and one recently unveiled at Krum High School. His work has earned him the Community Arts Recognition award, the highest honor bestowed by the Greater Denton Arts Council, and his pieces were featured at the 2007 Gala for the Visual Arts Society of Texas.

A retired art teacher, Cadell taught at Denton High School for 26 years. He replaced his paint brush with a welding torch while studying at Central State University in Oklahoma, around the time North Texas began to offer bronzing in its art program.

The sculpting — molding, welding, casting — takes place at Cadell’s Crossroads foundry. He says bronzing is an intricate process that can span weeks to months, depending on the piece. First, a rubber mold is made from the original sculpture and wax is painted into the mold, picking up the exact surface of the original. When the wax casting is removed, it is dipped and coated with a solution that creates a shell around it. With extreme heat from a burnout furnace, the wax burns out and the shell hardens. The bronze is poured into the shell, and after the shell is “busted out,” the bronze is cooled and cleaned.

“If it’s a life-sized bust that has to be bronzed, it can take about a month to finish.” Cadell says.

Once the bronze is ready, a patina is applied for color. While other sculptors use a wide array of tones, Cadell mixes three patinas — Liver of Sulfur or potash (golden brown or black), ferric nitrate (gold, red or brown) and cupric nitrate (green or blue).

"My main reason for creating art is to communicate,” says Cadell, who returns to the themes of nature and old Native American civilization. “If people can see that I created something special, then I’ve been successful.”