Lightnin' McDuff, Legendary Panhandle Sculptor, Dies

Sep 18, 2018

A legend in the Texas Panhandle art world died last week.

Lightnin’ McDuff is perhaps most famous for his sculpture “Ozymandius,” two massive stone legs on a pedestal that can be found in a cow pasture between Amarillo and Canyon. The statue, which is based on Percy Shelley’s poem of the same name, has been featured in Slate and Atlas Obscura.

Lightnin’ McDuff’s unique and otherworldly work can be found scattered across the Texas Panhandle, including a couple of his buffalo statues on the campus of West Texas A&M.

Panhandle photographer Angelina Medina remembered Lightnin’ as someone who was “always honest and genuine,” an artist whose work “started conversations and made people ask questions.”

Singer-songwriter Andy Chase Cundiff remembered his old friend this way: “Lightnin' McDuff was an eagle eye on the plains. (I can hear him joking, 'More like a buzzard'). His artistic point of view was wide, whimsical, sometimes cynical, but always, undeniably unique. He could make an ancient flying space god from a pile of rusty farm equipment, or an animal that never existed in reality out of a junk bin of stuff, and make you swear you had something in common with it.

Of his work, he once told me, 'You gotta boil it down to its essence, the part that screams out what it is'. I asked, 'What about the stuff that only exists in your mind, and you turn it into something solid?' He grinned slyly, and said, 'that's when you got ART'."