artNotes from Hyde House: Lowell Davis – Artist and teller of stories

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Lowell and Rose Davis at Lowell's 2019 Induction into the Hall of Carthage Heroes.

Some say old artists never die, they just paint away. Certainly this is true of  beloved artist Lowell Davis. At age 83, on the first day of November, 2020, All Souls Day, Lowell took his leave as naturally as he lived, forever faithful to the talents so generously bestowed upon him.

The love of all the artCentral community goes out to Lowell’s beloved wife Rose and to all his family and friends as we join with them in sending this hero on his way. Lowell’s inspiration and his love for life and art will be with us always!

On behalf of artCentral I had the privilege of naming Lowell Davis as the Carthage Artist of the Year at the 2019 Carthage Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet. Well-known artist and native son Andy Thomas was artCentral’s evening presenter. Andy told the poignant story of how Lowell had inspired and mentored him. He declared, “Lowell is in my eyes the greatest artist I have ever known. He’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever known, and I’ve known some great people.”

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With four hundred people rising to their feet and clapping waves of enthusiasm, leaning lightly on his cane, Lowell made his way down to the front, up the steps and onto the stage. He stopped some distance back from the podium. He just stood planted there as tears coursed down his weathered cheeks and Academy Award winner’s music blared over the loud speakers. When the crowd finally silenced, Lowell stepped to the microphone and said, “Let me tell you a little story. When I got out of the Air Force I went to the Dallas-Fort Worth area as an art director for a big ad agency.” His voice broke with more tears, “Excuse me…for a big ad agency and after fifteen years I couldn’t stand the big city anymore,” more tears, “so I moved back to Carthage and Andy would come out and see me. And he’d ask me questions about art, and I’d try to answer them. But if I’d known then that he would turn out to be…” more tears coming, voice breaking, “a much better artist than me…” sobbing, “I would have broke his fingers!”

Inducted into the Hall of Carthage Heroes in 2019, Lowell is honored as an Artist and Citizen of Distinction with a plaque celebrating his life. Born in Lawrence County, Missouri, on June 8, 1937, Lowell grew up in Red Oak. He attended Mark Twain grade school and Carthage High School. Ironically, after failing English and art his sophomore year at Carthage High School in the 1950’s, Lowell dropped out to join the Air Force.

Lowell married Rose Castillo Davis in 2003. He had three daughters and three sons from previous marriages: April Davis Brunner, also an artist, Heather Davis, Wren Davis, Phillip Davis, Jeb Davis and Aaron Davis. 

Among Lowell’s greatest contributions to the Carthage area is his recreation of his childhood hometown of Red Oak, the original now vanished. Red Oak II is a charming step back into a small rural town, complete with the original Phillips 66 gas station, general store, school house, blacksmith shop, a white steepled church and the Belle Starr home he preserved, moved and restored on the property. Thousands of visitors traveling Route 66 have made a special stop to explore Red Oak II. Many have had the pleasure of a visit and a photo op with Lowell at his home there.

In 1978, Lowell was one of the founding members of The Midwest Gathering of the Artists, a juried art exhibit and sale held in Carthage for more than thirty years to showcase Midwestern and Western paintings and sculptures.

Lowell Davis
Lowell Davis

Lowell’s artistic works include paintings, figurines, bronzes, metal sculptures and art books that reflect small-town life in rural Missouri—giving storybook glimpses into simpler and often sweeter times. Known around the globe for his art depicting farm life in America, most especially in Jasper County, Lowell is often referred to as the “Norman Rockwell of Rural Art”.

We are so very grateful to be gifted with the legacies of this great man. The spirit and the stories of Lowell Davis will live among us always!

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