Gail Jones Sundell takes a roughly shaped stone from the earth and brings it to life. Stone has been her favorite medium since she was a child, and she has had an abundance of experience working with alabaster from her family’s quarry near Fort Collins, Colorado. While primarily self- taught, early in her career she profited from the influence of artists who taught at her family’s art center and from the sculptors who frequented her family’s business.
Her main subject matter; the legends, spiritual life and family relationships of Native Americans was inspired by her father’s stories and his own paintings of his early life, growing up among the Cheyenne/Arapaho Indians in Oklahoma. Since she moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1981, Gail has continued to associate with and study various cultures of Native Americans to give authenticity to her work.
Gail has been an exhibiting artist in numerous shows in the West. Since 1999, she has shown in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Western Art Show and Sale, where in 2000, Gail’s sculpture was selected as one of the Old West Museum purchases. Her participation in the Cowgirl Up! Invitational Exhibition and Sale in Wickenburg, Arizona since 2010 has added patrons and friends to Gail’s list of numerous private and corporate collections including the Governor’s Residence and State Museum in Cheyenne, the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, Missouri, the Art of the Rocky Mountain West Collection in Dublin, Ireland, the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City, Nebraska, and the Great Plains Art Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Carving figures from stone that is hewn out the earth is a very challenging and rewarding experience. Some might say that this career is too physically demanding for a woman, but even though stone carving is indeed hard work, I have found a very special advantage to being a woman sculptor. The hours that I have spent caring for and nurturing my family and friends has enabled me to relay a depth of feeling to my work that speaks to those who view my creations and leads them to share in the wonder of life created from stone.
I have been working with stone since I was a young child, from my parents’ alabaster quarry. I started out by cutting and sanding paper weights and bookends, progressed to turning it on the lathe, making vases, lighthouse lamps, and bowls, and continued on to carve human figures and wildlife. I have done some bronze sculptures too, but as efficient and convenient as it is to hand over the model to the foundry to make the finished piece, I really prefer to take the stone from the mountain and take it through all of the stages myself.
As I grew up surrounded by my father’s paintings and his stories of his early life among the Cheyenne/Arapaho Indians in Oklahoma, I also was inspired to depict the American Indians' culture in my art work. I research the various cultures of the Americans Indians to assure that the costumes and stories are authentic on each piece.
It is my hope that the composition, design, and emotion in each piece will speak to the viewer. I believe that each stone has a spirit within, ready to emerge and come alive. I thank the Master Creator for allowing me to be a part of the process of freeing that spirit.