Rex Bandy was a painter on a mission to beautify the world

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 | 6:07 p.m. CDT; updated 9:19 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 26, 2014
Rex Bandy, pictured in October 2007 in his basement apartment at his son's house, was a Columbia artist, who always painted what he saw. Mr. Bandy died Saturday.

COLUMBIA — For Rex Bandy, art was a kind of religion. It was "The Gospel of Rex," as he wrote on the back of his paintings.

"He would always declare that he was engaged in a war on ugly," said Lisa Bartlett, a friend to Mr. Bandy. "In other words, he wanted to beautify the world."

Mr. Bandy was a Columbia artist who enriched the community with his paintings and love of nature. While his art often adorned the walls of the ARTlandish gallery and his friends' homes, he could frequently be found at Cooper's Landing dancing along to music played by his son's band.

Rex Bandy died Saturday, June 21, 2014. He was 89.

Mr. Bandy was born April 21, 1925, in Jonesboro, Ark., to Jacob and Ruby (Howard) Bandy. He served in the Navy during World War II and the Army during the Korean War.

Mr. Bandy met his wife, Betty Lou Lantz, during World War II. He was in the medical field, and she was an army nurse. They were married for 40 years, until she died in 1988.

He started out as a dairy farmer in southern Missouri after he got out of the military; later Mr. Bandy worked as a psychiatric caseworker at a training school in Boonville. He bounced around with jobs and eventually became an insurance salesman, selling life and medical insurance for many years. After he retired, he spent most of his time painting and growing flowers.

Bartlett has been showing Mr. Bandy's artwork at her Columbia art gallery, ARTlandish, for about four years.

"He gave away more art than he sold," she said. "It always made me say, 'Rex! Quit giving your paintings away! Make 'em pay for it!"

Bartlett said he always painted what he saw. He liked to go driving in the countryside, always carrying a disposable camera. He took pictures of trees and churches and flowers, then he would paint them.

"I consider Rex one of the greatest outsider artists ever," Bartlett said. "He wasn't trained in art. He picked it up later in life and just embraced it with a passion."

Those who knew Mr. Bandy said he loved to dance and would give away flowers and jewelry. Every time he visited Bartlett at her gallery, he brought her a bouquet of flowers.

"He would always leave the house with his pant leg tucked into his sock," Mr. Bandy's son, David Bandy, said. "He would scold people if they would try to pull it out of his sock. He'd say, 'that's how I meet women!'"

For the last 11 years of his life, Mr. Bandy lived with his son, grew flowers and hung birdhouses he built.

"Right now all the flowers are in bloom and the birdhouses are full of birds," David Bandy said. "He was very much a naturalist."

In 2007, Mr. Bandy told the Missourian that though he'd worked hard all his life, being able to paint after retirement took away all the stress caused by years of hard work.

"I’m the happiest man in Columbia," Mr. Bandy had said.

Mr. Bandy is survived by his son, David Bandy of Columbia; two nieces, Fonda Cash of Hot Springs, Ark., and Debbie Gibbons of Lompoc, Calif.; and one nephew, Gary Cash of Clarksville, Ark.

His wife, Betty Lou Lantz, died earlier.

Private services will be held at a later date.

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