Jim Savage, Sioux Falls, SD (1932-1985)
Jim and Shirley Savage owned and operated the Jim Savage Western Art Gallery out of our home in Sioux Falls, SD. My father began his artistic endeavors in conjunction with his antique tool collection. He envisioned opening a museum some day with small figures demonstrating how the tools were used. He finished one figure and the rest snowballed into a profession of sculpting and painting western art. In 1985 my father lost his battle with cancer and Shirley continued the gallery, changing locations and finally retiring in 2000.
Upon closing the gallery Shirley Savage Jones moved his artwork and display to the Center for Western Studies. His studio and artwork are a permanent display at the CWS located on the campus of Augustana College in Sioux Falls.
I have many requests for information about my father's artwork via my web site and receive many stories from the past. I enjoy hearing memories individuals have shared with me throughout the years.
The following biography was published in "Contemporary Western Artists" by Peggy and Harold Samuels. Copyright, 1982.
"Jim Savage, sculptor and painter of Western figures and Indian portraits in wood, born on a farm near Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1932. (He died in January, 1985) During 25 years as a carpenter and foreman of a construction crew, his hobby was collecting antique tools. When he acquired a hundred-year-old woodcarving set in 1967, he tried modeling some small pieces of wood including 'a goofy little witch's face as a joke' on his wife. She displayed the carvings in her home until she ran out of space, then took them to a Sioux Falls gallery where they were accepted and sold. The first piece to go was the witch's face.
In the initial exhibition he entered, he won Best of Show, and at the National Woodcarvers Convention he won first place. In 1975, he was awarded the gold medal for sculpture at the Phippen Memorial Outdoor Show, after saying that 'there were 33 bronze sculptures and mine was the only wood. I didn't think I had a chance.' At that point, he decided to make carvings his full-time vocation.
To get color in his carvings, he rejected the idea of polychroming in favor of the 'natural look' resulting from inlays of different kinds and colors of wood. He uses as many as sixteen varieties in a single sculpture that may be composed of 2,200 separate pieces of wood. He says that how to put wood together is almost as important as the carving because it's necessary to know about shrinkages. For this reason, he prefers hardwoods. When he became a professional carver, he had to begin serious research on the history of characters of the early West, and to acquire memorabilia to go along with antique tools that have long since been replaced by more effective tools. His 'Grabbin Leather' is in the collection of the Favel Museum, which represents him as does Kern Collectibles."
Thanks for your interest. Connie