Purchase photos

Family reflects on a lifetime of artwork

6/22/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Cedar View Assisted Living is a little off the beaten path for the Hays Arts Council's Summer Art Walk, but the exhibition of Dr. John Cody's work Friday night drew art enthusiasts, nature lovers and Cody family friends.

Cody, his wife Dr. Dorothy (Dot) Cody, their three children, Loren Shaiken, Kansas City, Andrea Russell, Portland, Ore., and Dr. Graham Cody, Madison, Wis., and granddaughter, Rowan Cody, were on-hand Friday evening to greet those attending. The Codys also have two grandsons.

Besides being a world renowned artist, John Cody served as director of High Plains Mental Health Center for more than 20 years.

Two of the three Cody children have followed Cody in the mental health field.

Graham Cody is a psychiatrist like his father, and practices in Madison, Wis., and Russell is a licensed clinical social worker in Portland.

The exhibit brought "some people I worked with at the (High Plains) clinic that I haven't worked with for 20 or 30 years," he said.

"He always did some painting, but he didn't go at it with the vengence that he did after he retired," Shaiken said of her father. "I think when he started putting out this body of work -- I think there's over 160 of these moth paintings -- that was after he retired."

Each painting takes about a month to complete, she said.

When asked if she also paints, Dot Cody, former Fort Hays State University student health physician, said her standard answer has become a little trite.

"I paint walls," she said.

"My dad always said that all of us had talent," Shaiken said. "None of us really developed it."

However, Russell did begin taking art classes in 2010.

"It's a little intimidating to be a painter when you have a father that paints as detailed as my dad does," Russell said.

Since 2010, she's been "taking art classes regularly and gotten a little of dad's advice."

As children, they helped their father with the subjects of his paintings.

"He would collect cocoons and things, so we used our bathroom to raise the cocoons in a moist environment," Shaiken said. "If we had gotten eggs and caterpillars hatched, we'd go scour the neighborhood for different kinds of foliage."

"Our part in it was to help him get fresh specimens to work from," Shaiken said.

"Growing up, we all loved nature," Russell said.

The family "went on all these international trips together. Some of that involved going to art museums, and some of it involved being out in nature and seeing natural things. It was a wonderful childhood, especially traveling," Russell said.

Her favorite trip with her parents isn't one from her childhood though, but a more recent experience when Russell, her parents and then 13-year-old son took an Amazon cruise.

The Codys have passed down a love of nature to the next generation too, Russell said.

Tony and Heather Keller, Hays, were among those who came to see the paintings.

"My gram, my mother's mom, is here at Cedar View, and my dad and mom have always really enjoyed Dr. Cody's painting," Heather Keller said. "They're so beautiful, and seeing them in person instead of on the Internet is just amazing."

Cody's work has been exhibited in the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

He always has given away his work to family and friends. More than 10 years ago, he divided his remaining collection equally among his three children.

"They all belong to the kids, so it's their headache now," John Cody said of his paintings.

A few years ago, each of the children donated paintings to three different institutions.

Russell donated 15 of her paintings to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. Graham Cody gave 15 paintings to the Hunt Institute of Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh, and Shaiken donated 15 paintings from her collection to Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, where her father attended medical arts school.

"To honor and showcase Dr. John Cody's beautiful artwork at Cedar View  gives us  and the Cody family the opportunity to invite the community to experience the 'Audubon of Moths,' " said Treva Benoit, Cedar View director. "We are truly honored and so happy that Dr.  Cody's wife, three children and a granddaughter could be here for this very special event."

"I'm so glad he's had the opportunity to do this little exhibit for the art walk," Russell said.