CARTHAGE, Mo. — Carthage artist Lowell Davis, the creator of a tiny town attraction called Red Oak II northeast of Carthage, died Monday night of what the family said was natural causes. He was 83.
His daughters announced his death on Facebook.
Davis, known by many as the “Normal Rockwell of Rural Art,” had been in ill health for a few weeks.
Davis’ paintings reflected his rural upbringing on Route 66. He grew up in Red Oak, then the tiny town of Rescue, both near the Jasper-Lawrence county line.
Later his family moved to Carthage, where he went to Mark Twain Elementary and Carthage High School before joining the U.S. Air Force and then moving to Dallas.
He returned to Carthage and became one of the first artists to start selling his work from a gallery on the Carthage square.
Davis’ artistry stretched beyond painting to drawing, sculpture, figurines and other forms of art.
He worked with Danny Hensley and Bob Tommey to start the Midwest Gathering of the Artists, an art show and auction that brought hundreds of artists from around the country to Carthage for more than 35 years until 2015. Tommey died in September.
Davis was a mentor to many budding artists, including Andy Thomas, now one of the most widely known artists from Carthage.
In January 2019, Thomas presented Davis with the Carthage Chamber of Commerce’s Artist of the Year Award and a special piece of art that Thomas created for Davis.
“Tonight’s recipient has done a lot more for Carthage than I have,” Thomas said. “Back in 1975, I desperately needed a job and I wanted to pursue a job in art. Nobody believed I would find a job in the art world. I didn’t even think I would, but I was going to give it a try. I was told to go visit this man, and I spent three hours with him in an old farm house, cold and drafty. He was so enthusiastic. When I left that farm house, two people in Jasper County believed I could be an artist.”
At that presentation, Davis remembered that visit a little differently.
“When I got out of the Air Force, I went to the Dallas-Fort Worth area," Davis said. "I was an art director for a big ad agency. After 15 years I couldn’t stand the big city anymore, so I moved back to Carthage. 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 had known then that he would turn out to be a much better artist than me, I would have broken his fingers.”
Davis' version brought the house down at the event.
Arrangements are still to be determined.