Wendell Castle – Sculptor, Designer and Kansas Native

The man known as the father of the Art Furniture Movement passed away on January 20th.  Wendell Castle was a sculptor and furniture designer whose work is in numerous museum permanent collections, including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Belger Arts Center.  While his renown was international, his roots were right here in our area.  He was born in Emporia, Kansas and was a student at the University of Kansas.

The Kansas City area has produced or nurtured many fine artisans and I hope I can pay tribute to many of them.  I think many of us are unaware of all the many contributions our artists make.

Leawood Kansas

Did you know there is a stunning example of Castle’s work at Brook Beatty Park in Leawood called “Faith“.  Here is a video of this commissioned bench courtesy of John Sleezer @kcstar.com https://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/article195860369.html

Nelson-Atkins Museum Of Art

The piece that is included in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art collection is called “Black Widow“.  It is a seductive three-legged fiberglass chair that should be seen.  I think the form and color live up to the name.

Belger Arts Center

The Belger Arts Center hosted an exhibit ‘Wendell Castle in the 21st Century’   honoring “one of America’s most revered Artist / Designers”.  The show featured more that a dozen works including pieces made with his ground-breaking woodwork, alongside stainless steel and polychromed fiberglass.


Laura Spencer at KCUR interviewed Castle at the time of the Belger show.  You can read the article and / or listen to the interview on the KCUR Arts Podcast.

Retro Inferno

If you think you might like to own one of Castle’s creations, check out Retro Inferno in Kansas City.  Rod Parks, owner and modern furniture super-star can show you examples of Castle’s genius.  At last check, you can see them on the Retro Inferno website.

Wendell Castle From Craft to Icon

Wendell Castle was credited for blurring the lines between aesthetic and function.  He said early in his career, there was a show that resulted in zero sales.  “At that time, there was no field thought of as ‘design’.”  His early audience thought of him as a craft woodworker.   He said art galleries would not show work that they thought of as having a “use”.  It has been said that Wendell Castle will forever be remembered as “the man who changed the way we view contemporary furniture in America“.

12 Adopted Rules of Thumb

Finally, Wendell Castle said he abided by Twelve Adopted Rules of Thumb.  These were aphorisms he wrote that guided his practice.  Funny, I can only find 10 of them.  Anyway, here they are:

1. If you’re in love with an idea, you are no judge of its beauty or value.

2. It is difficult to see the whole picture when you are inside the

3. After learning the tricks of the trade, don’t think you know the

4. We hear and apprehend what we already know.

5. The dog that stays on the porch will find no bones.

6. Never state a problem to yourself in the same terms it was brought to you.

7. If it’s offbeat or surprising, it’s probably useful.

8. If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it.

9. Don’t get too serious.

10. If you hit the bull’s eye every time, the target is too close.

Please let me know if you can share the missing 2 Rules Of Thumb.

Kansas City is rich in its Art Scene.  I hope to blog about many more of our regional art stars and doing what I can to support KC Arts!

Remembering Wendell Castle,


Bob Myers

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