The art world has lost a great talent and good guy. Wen Norton, artist and art conservator whose Norton Arts restoration business worked in New York and from his farmstead in Newton County, died Oct. 13. He briefly provided editorial cartoons for the Arkansas Times after George Fisher’s death, and operated an outpost of Norton Arts in SoMA. His daughter, Vanessa Norton McKuin, development director for UA Little Rock Public Radio and the previous director of Preserve Arkansas, posted the following tribute on her Facebook page:
He brought a creative eye and artistic flair to everything he did. And he encouraged everyone to make art. He gave me a deep love of the Ozarks and Buffalo River. He was always learning and he taught me to question things — “you don’t have to do anything you don’t really want to do.” He had a keen sense of humor and a great laugh. He loved his family and adored his grandson Silas. He was a complex person and I loved him.
Ferris Wendel Norton III, 68, passed on quietly October 13, 2019, at his ancestral home, May Farmstead, on the banks of Cave Creek in Newton County. He joined a host of family and friends on the other side including his father, Rev. Ferris W. Norton Jr., his beloved Nana, his sweet mother-in-law, Sara Ragsdale, and Ebby (‘nuf said).
Wendel was born in in 1951 in Dallas. He lived life large from Snowball to New York City. He had many passions: his family, his artwork, the Ozarks and the Buffalo River, politics, justice, gardening and music. He never grew tired of setting up his easel on the banks of the Buffalo River or on the tops of bluffs to capture the plein air beauty that he saw everywhere in the Ozark Mountains. Wendel studied art at Hendrix College with Don Marr and Bill Hawes. He became a lifetime member of the Art Students League in New York City, where he studied sculpting under Philip Pavia. His love of carving marble culminated and was immortalized in his sculpture Earthpeace at Pilgrim Place in Claremont, California. His excellent talents were also utilized nationwide in his family business, Norton Arts, Fine Art Conservation.
Wendel lived life on his own terms. He was a charter member of the Buffalo Riveria Rats. When he met the ukulele, he found a friend for life.
Wendel is survived by his wife of 44 years, Elizabeth (Ragsdale) Norton, his daughter, Vanessa McKuin (Tim), and grandson, Silas, his mother, Constance Waddell and step-father, Rev. Don Waddell, and his beloved Norton brothers (AKA Gonzo Compadres) and their wives & children, Wes (Louise, Peter, & Philip), A. D. Wyatt (Patsy), and Timothy R. (Sarah Beth), his parents in-law, Bob & Wanda Ragsdale, sis-in-law, Gail Owens (Ace, Lindsey & Alan), and bro-in-law, Bill Ragsdale (Ande, Ogden, Stokes, & Walker), step-brother and step-sisters, and other dear family and friends.
We will miss his laugh, the smell of oil paint, his intelligence, his silliness, his welcoming fires and hospitality, his constant companion—the ukulele, his spontaneity, and his warm hugs.
An Aloha celebration is being planned and will be announced soon. Memorials can be made to the Buffalo River Foundation, the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, The Ozark Society, or your favorite charity. Wendel would encourage you to vote for love and justice and to plant a tree.