A Renaissance Man
T. D. Kelsey is truly a man of many interests. As a member of the Cowboy Artists of America he is recognized as a quiet, understated man of few words, who raises Longhorn cattle and cutting horses, and is a talented award winning sculptor whose style is infused with amazing movement, imagination and emotion. T.D. doesn’t need to wax eloquently about his art; he lets his sculptures do all his talking!
Kelsey has three studios where his sculptures come to life. At his ranch in Guthrie, Texas stands a large metal building for his monumental sculptures, filled with scaffolding, hoists and industrial sized equipment, and a more intimate, 40 X 40 foot studio connected to his home, and another summer studio near Cody, Wyoming. You immediately sense and feel Kelsey’s understated personality when you enter his studios. They are not filled with impressive collections of pristine, custom made spurs, bits, saddles, firearms, and historical Indian artifacts, but T.D. does have his “treasures” from his travels all over the world. He doesn’t consider himself a collector, because he likes to shoot all his antique firearms, ride all his saddles, and work the Longhorn cattle and Cutting horses he raises with the hand made silver bits and spurs he buys. You won’t find many sculpting tools around the studios, except for an occasional serrated scraping tool to cut down an overstated detail he is not satisfied with. T.D. is a minimalist in this area also, as he mainly uses his hands to create his recognizable impressionistic style.
Though you find photographs of collectors, artists, international friends and hunters he has traveled the world with, there are few, if any photos of him. “I know what I look like,” he quips, ” why would I put up my photo?” Kelsey owns two bi-planes, one low wing aerobatic plane, a WWII Russian Trainer, and a Piper Cub. As a commercial pilot for 13 years, and 5 years in competitive air shows, flying a Christen Eagle aerobatic plane which he built himself, it is obvious that his interests are many and varied.
What you will find that is unusual for a Cowboy Artist’s studio, are the camel and horse saddles from Ethiopia and Mongolia, an African quiver filled with arrows, water jugs, artifacts, memorabilia and more than 300 trophy mounts from his international hunting expeditions. As a sculptor who not only creates bronzes of longhorns, Brahma bulls or cowboys roping, bucking and riding on horses, he has been around the world several times and on every continent except Antarctica, to research, hunt and photograph the next species he will magnificently sculpt. His monumental sculptures of cowboys, Longhorns, horses, buffalo, elk and Cape buffalo, are in museums, corporate centers, private collections and cities all over the world.
Asked who his artistic heroes and mentors are, he will tell you it was Sidni, his late wife. Though he has studied the greats in classical sculpture, like Bernini; and western artists like Will James and Russell; Sidni was and still is his greatest inspiration. She is the other quiet soul you find throughout T.D’s studios and within his works; an ever present spirit of encouragement; you can almost hear her telling Kelsey to push the envelope a bit farther and keep his confidence. Sindni’s influence still moves T.D. to excellence in his sculpture and to receive honors such as; a fellowship in the National Sculpture Society, a Thomas Gilcrease Museum Retrospective, Masterworks of American Sculpture 1875-1999 show at the Fleisher Museum, and many silver, gold and best of show awards from the Cowboy Artists of America. To many friends and collectors T. D. Kelsey is a Renaissance Man in chaps and a big cowboy hat.
~written by Merry Nebeker