Gilbert Jerome “Gib” Singleton, one of America’s foremost artists and the man who created the genre of “Emotional Realism,” passed Feb. 28 at his home in Santa Fe, N.M. Singleton’s work is held in the collections of the Vatican, Yad Vashem, the Museum of Biblical Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Monumental versions of his “14 Stations of the Cross” have been installed in Santa Fe and Dallas, and will soon be installed in New Orleans.
Singleton served in the U.S. Army as a tank commander, earned a degree in art education from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, then won a full scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago. He earned a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, Italy. In Florence, he helped restore artworks damaged by the Arno floods and was later recruited by the Vatican Workshop, where he helped to restore priceless paintings and sculptures, including Michelangelo’s “Pieta” after it was vandalized in 1972.
Gib Singleton was born in Kennett, Mo., in 1935 to a family of sharecroppers. At age 3, he began to draw with sticks in the dirt and sculpt figures from mud and straw. He won his first blue ribbon for art at the state fair at age 9 and was soon selling pencil portraits to friends and neighbors. He became fascinated with bronze as a medium and built his first foundry from scrap when he was 16.
After his time in Europe, Singleton headed the sculpture department at Fairfield University, then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2004, he was committed to hospice with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and told he had only six days to live.
He refused to accept that prognosis, checked himself out of hospice and worked nearly another decade. During that time, he created many of his most noted works, including “The Dove,” “Saint Francis,” “Lincoln,” “The Death of Christ,” the “14 Stations of the Cross,” “Aces and Eights” and his own “Requiem.”
Near the end of his life, Singleton said there were two things he hoped people would remember him for – bringing the term “Emotional Realism” into the art world and helping to bring spiritual art into the mainstream in America.
Singleton leaves behind a long list of family and friends, devoted collectors and fans, and spiritual leaders who all came to love not only his amazing art, but also the humble cowboy who created such powerful pieces.
His memorial service is Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis in Santa Fe, N.M. Reception to follow. No flowers can be accepted by the cathedral because of Holy Week. Donations in Gib’s name may be made to the Carmelite Monastery, 49 Mt. Carmel Road, Santa Fe, N.M. 87505, or by calling 505-983-7232.