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Kathy Spalding

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Kathy Spalding

Place of birth: Nashville, TN

Religious affiliation: None/Unknown

Naples, Fla. –

 Kathy Spalding, whose startlingly lifelike sculptures grace high-profile institutions from Naples to Nassau, Bahamas, and around the country, died Tuesday morning September 16, 2014 after a 17-month battle with cancer. She was 62.

 Her art and her sculpture has been recognized and collected by major national and international corporations, naturalist organizations, architects, fine art collectors, and museum patrons. Her remarkable creations may be found in such noted collections as Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, Turnberry Ocean Colony, Cleveland Clinic, Mystic Seaport Museum, NCH Garden of Hope and Courage, Oklahoma Aquarium, Bacardi, The Conservancy of SW Florida, Archer Daniels, Meadox Medical, Rollins family, Suzanne Von Liebig, MBNA, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Society Expeditions, Ocean Reef Club, Sun International-Sol Kerzner,Atlantis, and others.

 Kathy was known for her detailed, life-size-and-larger bronze sculptures. She created sea and tropical life, basking elephants, swooping osprey and turtles lumbering through invisible landscapes.  She made it a point to see her subjects from multiple perspectives using actual specimens she collected as well as multiple photographs reviewing them extensively before and during her work to capture the essence of her subjects.

 Revelers at the Atlantis Casino, Paradise Island the Bahamas, experience her school of fish. Cypselurus, her Flying Fish Fountain commissioned by Sol Kerzner as an outdoor centerpiece at his famed Atlantis Resort Casino, is a vivid example of a process that requires engineering as well as artistic ability. A 50-foot wide arching display of 28 flying fish, the sculpture contains 22,000 pounds of bronze and is constructed to withstand 120 mile per hour winds. Each fish in this articulate design required as many as 18 pieces for casting.

Spalding fowl creations greet visitors to each of the neighborhoods of The Estuary at Grey Oaks off Airport-Pulling Road in Naples.

 The Conservancy has a bronze gopher tortoise and one of Kathy’s eagles. One of her rare abstract sculptures sits on the north corner of Robb & Stucky International home furnishings on U.S. 41 at Third Avenue North.  Collectors and casual viewers alike admired Kathy’s minute and accurate details, down to fins, feathers and wrinkled mammal skin.

 She sculpted the gates of the Naples Community Hospital  NCH Garden of Hope and Courage. The designs she created for the Garden of Hope and Courage took almost three years to finalize and now grace the garden’s entrance. Two feather like sculptures each weighing about 1,500 pounds frame a 500 pound sculpture of a woman holding a hibiscus stamen. This statue has become the garden’s icon known as “Bloom”.

 The Nashville, Tennessee, native painted as well, in various mediums including water color, egg tempura, pen and ink and oil.  Perhaps her best known two dimensional  project was creating a 120-foot long series Southwest Florida wildlife panels that were joined for a mural at Rookery Bay’s Nature Center.  The panels, entitled the Rookery Bay Continuum, depict a vast array of native Southwest Florida flora and fauna extending from beaches to bays to coastal wetlands.   The Continuum is presented permanently as a continuous image at the Rookery Bay Nature Center.   Individual panels are currently on display at Rookery Bay Nature Center, Naples, and  in the state capital building’s dining room in Tallahassee.

 Her work is in many private homes as well as public institutions. Currently the Von Liebig Art Center in Naples has a three-quarter size bronze baby elephant on loan from one private collection.

 Kathy received the Conservancy of Southwest Florida highest honor, the Eagle Award. This prestigious honor is only given to people whose work exemplifies the mission of the Conservancy.

 Spalding’s familiarity with nature was buttressed by travel abroad to South America, Antarctica, Tasmania, New Zealand, Australia and Western Europe. As a student she studied at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and later at The Pratt Institute in New York City; Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.At the University of Iowa, Iowa City, she learned engraving and bronze casting and studied engraving at Atelier Garrigues in France.

 Kathy was one of the few artists who mastered and refined the “lost wax process” used for hundreds of years to create bronze sculptures. Her work was outstanding and unique in that she developed a technique working directly in wax that afforded her the ability to create fine detailing in larger than life size compositions.

 Kathy Spalding is leaving a legacy to the City of Naples. A number of her fiberglass alligators from the fundraiser Gators Galore for the Boys & Girls Club in 2002 still stand around town. In fact Kathy is leaving a second legacy as well. A new charity fundraiser, Turtles on the Town, is in the planning stages and one or more of Kathy’s sea turtle sculptures are slated to be featured.

 A private memorial gathering of Kathy’s family, friends and patrons is scheduled for November 1, 2014 in Naples Florida.

 In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting a contribution be made in Kathy’s name to The Lung Cancer Alliance …


 Please light a candle for Kathy and also share your thoughts regarding Kathy’s passing and how she touched your life.

 Please visit Kathy’s wonderful work …

 She leaves behind her husband Ken; Daughter Lara and her husband Matt;  Grandchildren Marissa and Stella;  Brother David and his wife Lamar;  Sister Marilyn and her husband Peter.

Special appreciation to Harriet Howard Heithaus of the Naples Daily News.


6 Responses

  • Charles DeLong On

    I just stubbled on this and my heart was broken. I knew Kathy for many years. I worked with her for many years but had moved and lost touch with her. I watched as she went from drawings to sculpture with true awe. She was a beautiful woman with amazing talent. I was sorry to hear that she has passed on the the spirit world. They are lucky to have her. Kisses Kathy. Peace to you.

  • On

    Our Friend and neighbor

    We have been a neighbor of Kathy and Ken's for over 14 years--what great neighbors to have. Anytime we could not identify anything growing in our yard, Kathy came to the rescue---not only providing the common plant name but the proper botanical name too. Each year we host our "homeless Thanksgiving"--meaning anyone that doesn't have a place to go is invited to our home. Kathy and Ken have been a part of this tradition with Kathy always pitching in with her oyster dressing and homemade lemon tart made with her lemon's from a family tree. Collectively, we will all miss one of the greatest artisians of our time. Personally, David and I will miss a great friend and great human being. David&Lynda Johnson

  • On

    my friend

    Naples is a wonderful place to live.....the biggest plus is the people who live there. Kathy was our neighbor for a bunch of years....she made our lives exciting and lively. .... as no one else could have done. What a blessing for our entire family to have her well as Lara, her family and Ken. anne raker

  • On


    The loss of Kathy no longer in her home and studio is hard to fathom. Kathy was a quiet friend with so many talents but she would always rather talk about other's talents. She would encourage anyone who ventured into art. Whoever looked her way, Kathy was always quick to share her insights. Once for me, she held a fruit up and a flashlight and vigorously said to look at this and see where the light shadowed and struck. She was generous with all her gifts and possessions. Once I admired a shell in her home. She reached over and gently put it in my hand. There was no disputing her. Outwardly, she lived an apparently simple life, but she had her mysteries, which she sometimes revealed with personal stories. Things thrilled her with a child’s delight, but her demeanor remained demure. Her work and her love of her fabulous garden were intertwined. She is not replaceable and she is everywhere. At every turn, all of us in this community see Kathy’s art and the nature that inspired it.

  • Marc Piloian On

    You will be missed by many

    We’ve really only met Kathy a few times at Jazzfest. And we’re still not sure how Ken convinced her (more than once) to leave Naples peaceful ocean breezes for something totally the opposite in New Orleans . . . Anyway, back to when we met and of course it came up in conversation that she was an artist. Ken the engineer, with an artist? So we survived Jazzfest and after we got back were still curious so we looked up some of Kathy’s work, then some more and some more. So although I myself am an engineer without an artsy bone in my body I found myself really drawn to her work. Then I realized why. It wasn’t just art –it was art blended with engineering. That’s a rare talent. So our hearts go out to Kathy’s family, friends and of course Ken. Her time here was short but her spirit lives on through her art. Rest in Peace Kathy. Marc and Debra Piloian, Granbury, TX


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