Call Wade Skinner a cowboy artist. Or a metal sculptor. It’s the obvious call. He has a workshop and small gallery off HWY 99 just south of Junction City. An authentic, mid-19th century covered wagon sits out front. A John Deere tractor is parked alongside the shop. Dozens of his art pieces are showcased across the property. They depict images best described as “western” or “cowboy” icons.
Except, Skinner, himself, is the true cowboy or western icon. And it seems everything surrounding him portrays his life stories and personal lessons learned.
“Every piece of my art,” says Skinner “be it wildlife, Native American, things of nature, western. . . Every piece of art, is a piece of me.” He speaks slowly, politely, with contemplation. He’s a man made of many pieces.
He’s both simple, yet complex. Wise. Charismatic. Family-oriented. Soulful. A philosopher and a poet by nature. A naturalist by desire. A Texan by birth; an Oregonian by experience. A laborer and trained craftsman. An artist by instinct. Mill builder. Horseman. Industrial welder. He’s a man of purpose with a strong back, a large heart, and a hopeful spirit.
In so many ways, he embodies the same qualities as the cowboys and western adventurers portrayed in his art.
“People have an iconic image of ‘The Great American Cowboy,’” says Skinner. “He believed in riding for the brand, the code of the West. That code should still be followed today, and I think it is. But I’d like to see more of it embraced: Standing strong. Respect for women. Care for his horse. Dedication to his boss. . . .
As in most aspects of his life, Skinner holds to philosophies that direct his artistic intentions. He strives for technical perfection in his designs and he carries the same perfection into every piece of steel and iron that he cuts and welds. “To do the heavy work,” says Skinner, “you wear gloves. To do the fine work, you take off the gloves so you can feel the iron.”
It’s a sentiment that Skinner would likely say reflects his fundamental approach to life.