On Friday October 11th, the world lost a loving soul and one of its greatest artists with the passing David Dean McGary. Dave passed away at his home in Paradise Valley, AZ, with the two most important people in his life by his side: Molly McGary, his beloved wife of 18 years, and their 16-year-old daughter. He was 55 years old.
An artist of international renown, Dave McGary was above all else a devoted husband and father. In Idaho Dave enjoyed the family’s passion for fly-fishing. Both In Idaho and here in Paradise Valley, he was able to share his love for vintage cars with a core group of like-minded friends, and took pleasure in restoring rare pre-World War Two automobiles.
As an artist, Dave McGary has been at the center of the Western Art world for the past three decades. A sculptor of extraordinary talent, McGary’s career began at the age of 16 when he received a grant from Wyoming artist Harry Jackson to study bronze foundry techniques in Italy. During his two-and-a-half years in Italy, the young McGary learned the art of casting from the finest foundry workers in the world, craftsmen whose ancestors had cast the sculptures that grace some of Italy’s greatest cathedrals. “There Are No Limits” was the motto that McGary hung in his studio later in his career, challenging him to sculpt without the concern for the casting process. His understanding of bronze casting was second to none.
After returning to the United States, Dave made his home in Sante Fe, New Mexico, where he found his calling in depicting Native Americans in bronze sculpture. The relationships he forged with Native American students in Sante Fe eventually lead to opportunities for the artist to meet with tribal historians and learn the stories of the tribal families and their ancestors. The Native American community embraced McGary, and called him a “Spiritual Messenger” because he brought the pride, bravery and sacred awareness of each tribe to life in his work. It was also Dave’s gentle spirit and his respect for everyone he met that endeared him to so many in the Native communities across the United States and Canada.
The artist was a very private and humble person who let his work speak for itself, but his fame was wide and his accomplishments many. He gained international recognition for his works in bronze, and his sculptures are in private and public collections throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. McGary’s sculptures are in permanent collections at the U.S. Capitol Building’s Senate Statuary Hall, the Smithsonian Museum and the White House collection in Washington, D.C. In Wyoming alone his monumental works are placed at The Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne, the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum in Cody, The University of Wyoming in Laramie, the Governors Mansion in Cheyenne, and the at Shoshone Tribal Cultural Center in Fort Washakie. Other monuments are placed at The Houston Astrodome, the Eiteljorg Museum of the American Indian in Indianapolis, Indiana, The Shinnecock Native Culture Museum in New York, The McCord Museum in Montreal Canada, the J.W. Marriott Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona, The Mayo Clinic and Hospital in Scottsdale, The Gene Autry Museum in Los Angeles, California, The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado, and Concordia University in Montreal. McGary was selected as the only artist from the United States to have a one-man show in the “Art and Earth” exhibit during the United Nation’s 1994 “Year of the World’s Indigenous People.” And earlier this year he was honored by the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia with a 30-year retrospective of his work titled “Native Expressions: Dave McGary’s Bronze Realism.”
But to McGary, more important than any honors or accolades were the relationships he developed over the years with the people he met because of his work. He cherished his friendships with collectors and with the tribal members who entrusted him to tell their stories. McGary’s commitment to education was strong: as a result of his involvement with the Shoshone community though the Chief Washakie projects, he and his wife Molly created The Washakie Foundation, donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of “Battle Of Two Hearts” sculptures to fund scholarships that enable Shoshone tribal members to attend the University of Wyoming.
The communities Dave McGary called home include Cody, Wyoming, where he was born on April 18, 1958; Paradise Valley, AZ. and Sun Valley, Idaho. He also had close ties to the province of Quebec, and to Montreal in particular as a result of his “Emergence of the Chief” project for Montreal’s Concordia University. Friends there have honored him by endowing “The Dave McGary Memorial Award in Fine Arts,” a scholarship that will be awarded to graduate level students studying sculpture and painting in the Fine Arts Department at Concordia University.