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Prolific Mountainair artist Rudy Cavalier took pride in having no boundaries when it came to his work.
“I conceive, create, and market all my own sculpture,” Cavalier wrote in his Fine Art America bio. “All my pieces are 'One of a Kind.’ I strive to accomplish that which I feel, something unique that hasn't been done. Perhaps it has, but not in my way. I feel that there is no mastery, just the journey, and the search for something new.”
Cavalier died last week after a year-long bought with various, increasingly debilitating health issues, said his wife, Darlene Ryer. He was 78.
But despite his failing health, he always remained up beat and ready to get back to his artwork.
“He did three lifetimes worth of art work and giving three lifetimes worth of love to everyone he knew,” said Ryer, who also is an artist.
The couple often worked in tandem on projects and their work was spread throughout their home.
“We should have lived in a warehouse because we have our work everywhere,” Ryer said with a chuckle. “We were one of those couples, we spent 24/7 together. We bounced ideas back and forth off of each other and we had a blast.”
A Belen native and a Vietnam vet who served in the Air Force during the 1960s, including several years of combat, Cavalier was a self-taught artist, Ryer said.
“Him and I, we did not have any formal training,” she said. “We just had a gift that makes us creative and we went with it.”
Cavalier came from French, Italian, Spanish and Tewa descent and likewise, his artwork reflected that varied background.
“He had art all over the world,” said colleague Anne Ravenstone, who was a member alongside Cavalier at the Manzano Mountain Art Council. “He worked as a sculptor and he worked in a number of different mediums. He carved glass. He carved stone. He carved wood. And he carved clay. He has some really amazing work.”
It was the art that brought Cavalier and Ryer together.
The two were showing together at a mall art show when they both lived in California.
“I just adored his work,” Ryer said. “He was working in alabaster stone a lot at that time. His booth was not far from mine. One of our mutual colleagues was helping me watch my booth because I had two kids in hand and one in a backpack. He went by and made a silly face at us. I asked, ‘Who is that? And she said, ‘That’s just Rudy,’ I told her I have to meet Just Rudy.’”
Although he has done all kinds of artwork and sculpted all kinds of figures, eagles were his favorite.
"He made over 4,000 eagles in the time that I knew him," Ryer said. "And that was before I stopped counting."
The couple moved to Arizona and lived there for a couple of years, but Cavalier yearned to return to his home state and they settled on Mountainair, where there is hardly a home that does not include a piece of his artwork.
And the townspeople have responded since his passing.
“There may be only about 700 homes in Mountainair, but I think everyone has come by to offer their condolences or to ask if they could help or to bring me food," she said. "Somebody even offered me a job because I need to find a way to make it now. But they have all been so wonderful.”
He illnesses took their toll on Cavalier's body, but not his spirit.
"He just couldn't fight any longer," Ryer said. "He had a rough last year, but he kept a positive attitude. He never gave up. He would be in bed, but he would always say, I'm going to get up and get back to work."