Charles Arthur Pebworth


Charles Pebworth, beloved artist, teacher, and family man, left this life on January 10th, 2019 after suffering complications from a fall at the age of 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. 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 November 3rd, 1926 in Kinta, Oklahoma to Louis Aaron and Ann Lorene Hodges Pebworth. He was the second eldest of 5 children and grew up during the Great Depression. The family moved to Pawhuska, Oklahoma 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 Pebworth 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.

Graveside services will be held at 10:00AM at the National Cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansas on January 21, 2019. All are welcome to attend.
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Published on January 15, 2019
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