Cynthia Rigden passed away on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Recently, she was staying in a rehabilitation facility to recover from two knee surgeries. Unfortunately, her health deteriorated dramatically for unknown reasons.
Cynthia grew up surrounded by horses and cattle on an 8,000-acre ranch that has been in her family since 1902. Her roots in Arizona and the West are deep. Yet, she doesn’t call herself a “western artist;” rather she is an artist who comes from the West.
In a profile in magazine, The Equine Image, she said, “My work isn’t western in the sense that it’s cowboys and Indians shoot-’em ups. It’s western in the fact that I live here and my animals, my models are mostly here.” In addition to her renowned sculptures of horses, Rigden is also known for her sculptures of Longhorn cattle. Rigden believes her long association with horses and cattle gives her work an edge. From her daily contacts with the animals, she knows they have distinct personalities, and with her insight into “horse psychology,” Rigden tries to reflect these differences in her art. She says, “I like to catch the subtle attitude of the horse, but I don’t try to romanticize them. I believe the gracefulness and the form of the horse speak for themselves. And if I can capture that in my work, then I’ve captured the essence of horses.”
In a 1997 profile in Farm and Ranch Living, she said, “During the course of a typical day, I might see a cow pony or a big old Longhorn doing something that makes me want to capture it in a bronze. Of course, just seeing something doesn’t mean I can sit right down and sculpt it. I often have to do a lot of research to get all the details right. Details are very important. Folks who know horses and cattle will see right away if I get something wrong. So I have a room full of close-up photographs of every part of an animals anatomy, from its ears to its hoofs.”
Though she has been interested in painting since childhood – her grandmother’s watercolors are still known in the Prescott area – her passion for sculpting waited until college. “I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything but an artist,” she said.
At Arizona State University, the classes she wanted to take were filled so she took a course in sculpting. She has been profiled in Southwest Art, Arizona Highways, Contemporary Western Artists, and The Texas Cowboy. She was among women featured in Barbara Van Cleve’s book, Hard Twist – Western Ranch Women. She was featured in an article in the May/June issue of Art of the West. She has exhibited in the American Women Artists and the West, Loveland Sculpture in the Park, and the Texas Cowboy Artists Award Show.
Cynthia’s family is hoping to have a celebration of life gathering this summer.
“I was fortunate to know Cynthia Rigden. During my time at Trailside Galleries, Cynthia often came into the gallery with new bronzes and paintings. Along with her artwork, she always brought a big smile and a happy demeanor. She had a great sense of humor, a caring heart and a wealth of ranching and artistic knowledge that she was unhesitatingly willing to share with other artists. Cynthia Rigden will be missed, not only by her family and friends, but the art world as a whole.” David Wilkinson
The Daily Courier obituary.
Biography courtesy of Trailside Galleries.
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