Kathleen “Kath” Girdler Engler has left pieces of her soul all over town.
Her major sculptures are familiar sights. Cultural Triad welcomes patrons to the Maxwell Theatre on the Summerville campus of Georgia Regents University.
The Nature of Healing is a whimsical abstraction that stands 20 feet tall in front of the Children’s Hospital of Georgia.
Navigating History, located near Walton Rehabilitation Hospital at the corner of Walton Way and 13th Street, depicts three boatmen on a plank-like boat.
Engler died Wednesday at her home surrounded by her family.
Engler was born in 1951 in Indianapolis, and studied art at Indiana University. She moved to Augusta in the mid-1970s hoping to enter the MCG medical illustration program. She earned a degree in nursing from the Medical College of Georgia and an art degree at Augusta College, but once she began working in clay and ceramics, she had found her artistic career path.
Other pieces by Engler include a sculpture of Dr. “Curly” Watson in the lobby of University Hospital, Claire’s Fern at Episcopal Convent of St. Helena, The Graduate in the courtyard behind Greenblatt Library at GRU’s MCG campus, and sculptures at the Family Y and children’s garden at Pendleton King Park.
Engler also founded Run with Art camps for children, which combined physical exercise with creative art projects.
“I think that I have loved and enjoyed most and what I’ve even collected is her paper pulp pieces,” said Molly McDowell, co-owner of Outside the Box Fine Art. “A lot of times she used antique mannequins that she would infuse a lot of different twigs and found objects and jewels into. It’s very different than any other artists I’ve seen.”
McDowell has been a friend and exhibitor of Engler’s work at galleries in Atlanta and Augusta for more than 20 years. She described her friend as very loving and caring, and very giving to her craft, patrons and dealers.
McDowell said one of Engler’s greatest strengths in her art was that she wasn’t afraid to do things her own way.
“That was such a strength in her art was just to be her own person,” McDowell said.
Engler’s works have also been exhibited in New Zealand, France and Italy, and have been on display in the Mary S. Byrd Gallery on the GRU Summerville campus, the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, and galleries in Knoxville and Memphis, Tenn., and Huntsville, Ala. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards and is held in many public and private collections.
Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Thomas Poteet Funeral Home, 214 Davis Road. The funeral service will be held at Poteet at 11 a.m. Friday.
The family requests donations be made to the Children’s Hospital of Augusta in Engler’s name in lieu of flowers.
Arts columnist Keith Claussen contributed to this report.