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Chalres Pebworth

Charles Pebworth, long-time SHSU art faculty member and acclaimed artist and sculptor, dies at 92

Celebrated for works in natural materials, love of teaching

Graveside services for Charles Arthur Pebworth, renowned artist, retired Sam Houston State University art professor and teacher, will be conducted at 10 a.m., Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 at the National Cemetery in Fayetteville, AR, where he had retired.

Pebworth was born Nov. 3, 1926, and died Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019 from complications from a fall. He was 92.

He leaves a legacy of creativity, generosity, humor, and love, influencing not only the lives of his family and collectors of his work, but also generations of students who count him as a friend and mentor. The drawings, sculptures, and paintings of Charles Pebworth can be found in private and corporate collections, universities and museums. Including the Wynne Home for the Arts in Huntsville and other Huntsville locations.

He traveled far in this life, always exploring and learning as he interpreted the world around him through his artistic vision; he was a prolific creator who drew and painted every day up until the end of his life.Charles Pebworth was born in Kinta, OK to Louis Aaron and Ann Lorene Hodges Pebworth. He was the second eldest of five children and grew up during the Great Depression. The family moved to Pawhuska, OK when he was six, where his father worked as a landman for the oil interests of the Osage Indian Tribal Agency. Louis was himself a member of the Choctaw tribe, as recorded on the original 1906 tribal rolls created by the Dawes Commission to document persons of Native American descent.

The influence of the Osage and Choctaws remained strong throughout Charles life. This manifested itself in an appreciation for the natural world with an affinity for plants, rocks, and minerals, and a compelling desire to spend as much time as he could outside – sculpting, cooking and working in his garden. Indian imagery and symbols appeared often in his work and he passed along to all his children a pride in this heritage.

Like many young men of his generation, Charles left school in his senior year to serve in WWII with the hope of seeing combat. A poor student, he astonished his high school teachers by passing the Air Force exam to become a pilot. Unfortunately, because he was too young and they were no longer accepting pilots, he enlisted in the army and completed paratrooper school. While on station in California waiting to be shipped to Japan for a ground invasion, Japan surrendered and the war was over.

Always with a strong sense of duty and patriotism, he re-enlisted at the start of the Korean War where he was deployed to Japan and Korea as part of an anti-aircraft intelligence unit of the 45th infantry division from Oklahoma. Always independent and creative, he claimed an unused quarantine tent for his own where he opened a kitchen for friends using food they procured while on a mission to Seoul, Korea until the mess hall caught wind and shut him down. His artistic side emerged during his Army days as he drew cartoons for the platoon newspaper and a banner for his unit.

Following his service, he worked and used the G.I. Bill to attend several universities including Colorado A&M, Baylor, and the University of Oklahoma before earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Houston and a Master of Fine Arts from Louisiana State University, one of the few schools in the US with a graduate program in sculpture. During his time at OU he met Nona DeShazo, a fellow art student, fell in love, and eloped several months later to Houston with money borrowed from his brother and a borrowed plastic ring. They were happily married for 66 years.

In 1957 Charles secured a tenured position at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas and began what would be a 36-year teaching career. He established the art departments first foundry to cast aluminum, bronze, and copper and developed a reciprocal working environment for both himself and his students that made him a mentor to many.

During this time he developed a signature style that lead to a successful professional career in Houston with regular sold out solo exhibitions. He was represented by Stella Sullivan, DuBose, Ars Longa, and Moody Galleries consecutively. In 1987, Charles Pebworth was designated Texas Artist of the Year. He was best known for his aluminum “Metal Relief” wall sculptures which often incorporated cast metals and precious stones.

A versatile artist, he also produced works in wood and marble, often contrasting organic shapes and natural materials in modernistic forms. His acclaimed career in Houston earned him many commissions across the country. One of his first large scale commissions was for the Hyatt Regency Houston – a two story metal relief in the central atrium lobby and a wall piece in the rooftop revolving restaurant, which are still on view. Others include a 5 ton marble sculpture purchased for Herman Miller for their Zeeland, Michigan headquarters, and his largest, a 50 foot Cor-Ten steel sculpture, commissioned by Texas billionaire George Mitchell at the entrance of The Woodlands, Texas. The Houston Grand Opera also commissioned his ink and watercolor drawings for two of their Operas.

In 1993 Charles retired from teaching, but remained a treasured teacher to many who kept in touch with him until the very end. In 2006, Charles and Nona relocated to Fayetteville, Arkansas to be closer to family and the cabin they built in the Ozark Mountains.

Last November on the occasion of his 92nd birthday, his wife, children, grandchildren, former professorial colleagues and students, gathered to celebrate and tell stories of shared experiences. Bringing people together and affording them an opportunity for good conversation was one of his talents and he was able to entertain one last time at the cabin around a fire and the pizza oven and smokers he built. Charles and Nona loved presiding over a table of family and friends.

An inspiration to those who knew him, Charles at 92 was still exercising on his stationary bike and working on his artwork every single day. His influence will live on in the many who adored him.

Charles is survived by his wife Nona, and his children – Lisa and her husband Abhijeet and grandsons Ian and Larkin, son Jeff and wife Julie, Alison and partner Chris Sollars, and Jared and his wife Cindy King and grandchildren Lily and Liam.

To place an online tribute, visit www.mooresfuneralchapel.com


About Rich Heiland

Rich Heiland, former publisher of the Huntsville Item and owner of Free Press publications, LLC, a reporting/writing firm working with media, has been a reporter, editor and publisher at several daily papers. He was part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team. He taught journalism at Western Illinois University. He can be reached at freepresstx@gmail.com or 936-293-0293.

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