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 photo from Arizona Botanical Gardens

An intrinsic part of the Arizona art world for more than forty years,  Waddell has been teaching and exhibiting his work, both in one-man shows and permanent displays, throughout the state.  A prolific artist, there are 14 public venues in Phoenix alone, where his work is on display.   He has also had exhibitions and permanent installations throughout the United States. 

Best known for bronze sculptures of female nudes in motion, John Waddell was born in Des Moines, Iowa and in 1957 became a resident of Arizona. John Waddell attended the Art Institute of Chicago and had his first solo show in Peoria, Illinois at age 21. He was in the military and the G.I. Bill financed the remainder of his formal education, which was two M.F.A.s in Fine Arts and Art Education. He and his wife, Ruth, a close partner in his professional as well as his personal life, moved to Arizona in 1957. Here he headed the art education department at Arizona State University (then Arizona State College) for several years. During this time Waddell made sculpture his primary art form. The 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, in which four young girls died, became a pivotal event in his development as an artist. The monument he created in response to that tragedy, That Which Might Have Been, Birmingham, 1963, resides in the garden he designed for it at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Lincoln Drive in Phoenix. At age 43 he resigned from teaching to become a full-time sculptor. His work has been acquired nationwide from the Mondavi Vineyards in Napa Valley, California to the Flushing Meadows Tennis Center in New York City. His sculptures are exhibited in many places in Arizona, including the Civic Plaza, the Sedona Cultural Park, and the Phoenix Art Museum.  His sculptures are very prominent in the Civic Center of Phoenix, Arizona, especially in front of the Herberger Theater.   The Waddells have lived in the Verde Valley, near Sedona, Arizona since 1970. 

Biography - Summary

  • Age 7, enrolled in art school
  • Age 13, apprenticed to Katherine Lord
  • Age 16, taught for Katherine Lord in exchange for formal art lessons.
  • Age 18, won a scholarship to the Art Institue in Chicago.  Was Also allowed to attend courses in Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, and Art History.  Spent six years at the Art Institute in Chicago.
  • received two M.F.A.s in Fine Arts and Art Education from the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Taught for 12 years
    • 5 years at a college for teachers
    • 2 years at the Institute of Design
    • 5 years at Arizona State University, head of the Art Department
  • Age 40, stopped teaching and began sculptures and painting full-time, periodically providing Apprenticeship Fellowships.
  • His current work in progress is a bronze relief that will reach 40 feet skyward, entitled "Earth to Sky." (earthbound and ascending figures from "Earth to Sky" pictured below)



Artists John and Ruth Waddell with John Waddell's current work in progress "Earth to Sky"