Remembering sculptor Dave McGary
By Kristin Hoerth
If you’re a longtime reader of Southwest Art, you probably know the name Dave McGary very well. For many years, McGary shared his bronze sculptures of Native Americans with art collectors in frequent full-page advertisements, and he has been featured in the magazine many times. So I was saddened to learn that McGary passed away on October 11 at his home near Scottsdale, AZ. He was 55 years old and had privately battled a rare form of kidney cancer.
McGary grew up on a ranch in Cody, WY. When he wasn’t busy with chores, he drew, welded, and made things from clay. A junior-high class in lost-wax casting set McGary on his eventual career path, and at age 16 he received a grant to study foundry techniques and anatomy in Italy with master craftsmen at a renowned foundry. When he returned to the West, he spent three years working at the Shidoni Foundry near Santa Fe, NM. There he became close friends with two Oglala Sioux brothers, who invited him to spend a summer with their family. Their uncle was a Sioux tribal historian, and McGary soaked up the countless stories he had to tell. From that point on, McGary spent many more summers and extended stays with a growing network of Native friends, attending ceremonies and developing a deep understanding of each tribe’s culture. Those friendships and cultures inspired him for the rest of his life.
Today McGary’s work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Houston Astrodome, the Eiteljorg Museum, and the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum, among many others. He created numerous public sculptures, including a 30-foot-tall monument depicting Shoshone Chief Washakie at the University of Wyoming and a 255-foot-long monument depicting eight running horses at the Hubbard Museum. When he wasn’t working—and he worked a lot—McGary indulged his passions for fly-fishing and for restoring rare, pre-World War II cars.
McGary was featured in these pages most recently as one of the “40 Prominent People” recognized in our special 40th anniversary issue in May 2011. One of the questions we asked in that interview was, “How would you like to be remembered?” McGary answered this way: “For having documented, with respect, the culture of Native American people. For being innovative and establishing my own techniques and style of work. For showing that there really are no limits in what is possible in bronze.”
Featured in the December 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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