Big Bad John sculpture awarded best of Prince Albert Winter Festival art show

Prince Albert artist James Cathcart was awarded the Best in Show/Mayor's Prize for Big Bad John on Feb. 7, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Artist James Cathcart says piece is a legacy to farming family

James Cathcart didn’t grow up playing with traditional toys like Legos.

He was a farm kid. He was constantly intrigued with machinery, rummaging through piles of what most would consider junk.

“My outlet was growing up around the bone pile, the junk, and I remember even as a child there was a fascination with the gears, the cogs and these pieces of equipment. I always had a wonder about it,” he said.

This, Cathcart explained, is how he began transforming old machinery parts, including some John Deere, into pieces of furniture.

He’s sold several tables in Alberta, and figured “it was kind of a sure thing” to submit to the Prince Albert Winter Festival’s 44th annual Art Show & Sale at the Mann Art Gallery.

“I happened to start laying out some pieces…and I looked at it and I said ‘That looks like a gun,’” explained Cathcart. He had hesitations about building the gun sculpture until his wife Deanna said “You see a gun, do the gun.”

Big Bad John, as Cathcart named it after completion, won the Best of Show/Mayor’s Prize at the opening reception on Friday night. Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick gifted him with a vase the city had purchased.

“I just had a feeling in my heart that it was the time,” said Cathcart.

Pictured is James Cathcart’s Big Bad John. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Cathcart grew up on a family farm located just southwest of Prince Albert. He quickly became engrained in the lifestyle, and still to this day wants to spend all of his time in the shop fiddling with industrial metal.

“It’s just nice to get your work out where you’re from,” he said.

He began building furniture out of industrial metals in 2015 when he was asked to create steampunk-inspired pieces for The Rusty Owl. Since then, he’s ventured into smaller decor.

“It’s really part of a legacy to where I grew up, to my family, just to those people who came before me. People that made it possible for me to have any kind of life—they put (in) their sweat, they lost family members on the farm,” he said about his art.

Cathcart said two of his uncles died before he was born, one in a farming accident and the other in a house fire.

“It makes you dig deeper into the tragedies that people go through and how they survived and how we even got here. There’s a story behind a story behind a story it seems.”

Cathcart’s furniture and decor pieces are available for purchase at You can also visit his Facebook page called Arc and Gears Steampunk Design & Decor.

Big Bad John will be displayed in the front gallery for the remainder of the Winter Festival Show & Sale until Mar. 21.

‘Make art, let the people decide whether they like it or not’

The Prince Albert Winter Festival Art Show & Sale’s guest curator, Tim Moore, knows it can be daunting to share your work for the first time. The Winter Festival was one of his first professional art shows.

The Prince Albert Winter Festival Art Show and Sale’s guest curator, Tim Moore, speaks at the opening reception at the Mann Art Gallery on Feb. 7, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“I would like to let them know that this exhibition is the perfect place not only regionally, but provincially, to explore this new relationship with their audience,” said Moore during his speech at the opening reception.

“Having a safe place to introduce your work and get valuable public feedback from the artistic community is extremely important.”

He then paraphrased a quote by Andy Warhol: “Make art, let the people decide whether they like it or not and while they’re deciding, make more art.”

The quote resonated with one of the award recipients, Curtis Kerr. His piece, Summertime Sadness, won the Dana Wareing Popescul Memorial Award for Mixed Media.

“That was exactly the process I had with this piece,” he said.

Kim Orynik (centre) and Tim Moore (right) presents Prince Albert artist Curtis Kerr (left) with the Dana Wareing Popescul Memorial Award for Mixed Media on Feb. 7, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Summertime Sadness is a found object sculpture. It’s made out of a coke bottle, sunglasses and an ash tray with two cigarettes.

“I based it off of the artist Lana Del Rey. I was kind of thinking about it for a while and it just came together. The sunglasses, the coke and the cigarettes just really captured her vibe,” he said.

“I wasn’t really expecting other people to understand it. If you’re within that music and you see it, you’re going to get it. Everyone else is going to be scratching their head, and I don’t care because I’m not making my piece for those other people.”

Kerr has been participating in the Winter Festival Art Show & Sale for the past few years.

Summertime Sadness is on display in the main gallery.