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The Bob Cage Page

A local painter, internationally recognized sculptor, champion tennis player, and community activist, Bob Cage is also known as the premier tobacco auctioneer.

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The Sculptor:
        Sculpture Farm
        Sculptures Around Town
The Artist
The Preservationist - "Glennmary"
The Auctioneer
The Tennis Player

Sculpture Garden
by Beth Robertson, The Gazette-Virginian, May 2, 1997

Jet engines might take the massive, metal bird airborne, but it would probably take just that.

Scattered across the rambling field at the corner of Cage Trail and Shanti, perhaps 30 original sculptures constantly capture the attention and imagination of fascinated passersby.

Artist R.F. Cage's idyllic hideaway - turned sculpture garden - is turning heads as local residents and tourists cruise by, sometimes bumper-to-bumper, marveling at the metal giants.

The artist appears both perplexed and pleased by the reaction.

"It is surprising to me, this response," acknowledged Cage, particularly, he notes, in a rural area where art museums are few, particulairly those featuring abstract works.

His work, he suggests, "Generally calls for creative viewing," but not all.

Within the ranging sculpture garden one finds warriors, a white horse and buggy, a planet and friends and lovers among a host of otherwise abstract pieces.

"The ones who give me an extra charge are the kids," continued Cage, who was once described as the pied piper of art during a school tour.

The artist particularly enjoyed a recent visit by a group of Mecklenburg County high school students.

"They were just so motivated, so interested in everything," recalled Cage. "Sculpture, painting. They even wanted to go into the house."

For Cage, art has long been a life-style, with the winding lane leading into his farm flanked by sculptures, both metal, wood and copper.

A narrow, log bridge arching over Shanti's private entrance, an artwork in itself, not only heralds the charming pond and cabin-dotted setting to come, but is designed to allow Cage's small herd of goats a field-to-field crossing. A sight to behold, both children and adults are delighted by this functional Cage addition.

A sculptor, painter, champion tennis player and World Champion Tobacco Auctioneer, Cage's whirlwind schedule always includes art.

"I do it because I have to do it," explained the artist. "But it is not complete unless someone responds. If my work gives others pleasure, that is an extra bonus. Nothing is worth much if you can't share it."

Cage's next sculpture and painting exhibit opens this weekend at The Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History in Danville at 975 Main Street.

His work will be on exhibit in the Jennings Gallery in Danville from May 4 to June 2 (1997). On Sunday, at 2:30 p.m., a short film for Sundance featuring dance, choreography and art, which includes Shanti, will be shown.

Preparing for the exhibit is no easy task, confessed the artist. In his case, moving sculptures often includes words like wrecker, flat-bed truck and a multitude of helping hands.

Still, it is sculpture Cage calls his easiest medium.

His goal: "To invest metal with poetry, resurrect it and give it new life," he explained.

But first he has to find the metal, which may include trips to junkyards, farms and even odd farm implement castoffs from friends.

His search for ancient trees is legendary, often the remnants of natural disaster whose massive trunks are transformed to share their beauty once again, this time as a mixture of smooth curves and sudden angles aglow in rich patina.

Obviously, the massive sculptures take many hands. Cage and his son Fielding combined efforts on several of his earlier works, woodland copper sculptures beautifully aged now by the passing years.

And then there is Cage's cohort in creation, Malcolm Ragsdale.

"Malcolm is so faithful," began Cage. "He's my hands. He welds, cuts and saws."

Loading and moving to the Danville exhibit this week, Cage welcomed a second pair of helping hands, Willie White's.

The multi-ton sculpture masses also "take a lot of upkeep," according to Cage. Fighting rust and repainting are mammoth maintenance tasks.

Still, sculpture is "quicker and more spontaneous" for the artist. "You can make a quicker statement with steel."

His paintings are another story.

"I struggle with them," he confessed. "There may be three or four ghosts under one, one I didn't like and painted over. "I do a painting, think I like it, put it in my bedroom, and after a while I decide I can't stand the damn thing."

But the artist never throws a canvass away, he simply paints over it. "One, one in my life I threw away," he corrected."

At the Danville exhibit, Virginians will discover about four pieces of indoor sculpture and a half-dozen outdoor pieces and perhaps 20 paintings, described by the artist as "some abstract, some surreal and some semi-realistic."

Sculptures Around Town

Located in front of Glennmary.
At the entrance of the Wotld of Sports.
Across the road from the Patrick Henry Boy's Home on 501 South at Cluster Springs.
The plaque at the base of the cross in the Main Street Methodist Church Prayer Garden.
The Main Street Methodist Church Prayer Garden viewing from North Main Street.
Looking west in the Main Street Methodist Church Prayer Garden.
The east entrance of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center Building.
The north side of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center Building.
The Plaza on Main & Broad across from the post office.

The Auctioneer

Pulse of the planet - Two minute sound Portraits of the planet Earth
Program #1681
August 1998

ambience: background auction sounds, truck loading

We're listening to the sounds of a tobacco auction. Right now it's auction season in North Carolina and other tobacco growing states. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Careful not to raise your hand unless you're ready to bid. And we'll hear just how to bid from veteran tobacco auctioneer Bob Cage.

"What I have in front of me is a man who usually is a man who usually is the tobacco warehouse man. And he assesses what each pile of tobacco is worth. So he gives a number -- like a dollar ninety two, which is the price he thinks that tobacco will bring. Now it may not bring that. It may bring a dollar eighty five, or it may bring a dollar ninety five, but what I have to is to pick up the chant at a dollar ninety two and go one way or another until I see a guy bidding. A bid is just a nod or they'll have their hands in the air, bidding that way. If I'm crying a dollar ninety and he holds his hands up with five fingers up, that means he's bidding a dollar ninety five. If I cry a dollar ninety and he holds his hand down, turns his five fingers down, he's bidding a dollar eighty five. A dollar ninety and he holds one finger up, that means he's bidding a dollar ninety one, it's that simple. So it'd be sort of like this, the way I'd say a dollar ninety! So I'd pick up a chant:

ambience: Chant begins

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

Program #1680
August 1998

ambience: auctioneering

This month, throughout the southeast, it's the season for tobacco auctions. Think of it as a dance between buyers and sellers, responding to the rhythm and the song of the auctioneer. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"My name's Bob Cage and I've been auctioneering since 1950. Whenever tobacco's being sold, I'm selling it somewhere."

When the selling gets underway, the auctioneer responds to hand gestures from the buyers in the audience, and sings out their offer, inviting other buyers to up the price. But a tobacco auction can go on for hours, and so the job of the auctioneer is to entertain, as well as sell.

"Basically, some talk it more; I prefer to sort of sing it. It's easier. And, you know, I put as much creativity as I can into it, to try to make it interesting. It can get pretty boring, if you just do the same old drone all the time. You develop your own style over the years.

"You know, the more they enjoy it, the better the sale, the better the spirit. And that's what I try to do; I try to just sort of dance our way through it, you know. Most of the time we get in a rhythm. They know when I'm beginning to knock the tobacco out by my rhythm."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

The Kentuck Post
Is this year's burley auction the last?
Publication date: 11-14-01

The bidding started at 9:40 a.m. and rolled like a parade down one row and up the next. Auctioneer Bob Cage chanted the bids like some Indian shaman, noting the silent signals of four tobacco company agents who matched his gait on the opposite side of the bales. A bid recorder kept pace, writing the bid and tossing it backwards onto the bale as they churned through 360 bales in less than one hour.

''They used to stop and battle for tobacco,'' said Woods. ''Now they just march through.''

Cage, 77, has been auctioning tobacco in Maysville for 47 years.

''We've sold as much as $45 million in the Maysville market. This year we'll probably sell $6 million,'' he said.

''The future of the whole auction system is in danger,'' he said. ''This place used to be full of people on opening day. But farmers are afraid not to go along with the contract system. A whole way of life for the last 140 years is changing.''

You could already see the change on Tuesday, Cage said.

''The auction houses used to be noisy. People would bring their kids and see friends on the warehouse floor they hadn't seen all year.''

Tuesday, farmers greeted each other in cautious tones and speculated about who was going to be back next year and who was not.

''The enthusiasm's gone,'' Cage said. ''People are worried. This was a tremendous tradition over the years. But we're in a corporate world now.''

Maryland SunSpot.net

My last stop of the morning is Cage's Sculpture Farm, an easy drive from South Boston. Sculptor Bob Cage has filled a field with sculpture made mostly of found farm machinery parts. Two feisty burros mingle with a herd of small goats that make their home there.

There is a rusting circus tent, a globe made of rusted wheel rims, a large bird and abstract shapes to gaze upon. Cage, in his 80s, drives up from his cabin to welcome visitors. He continues to paint and sculpt, and says, "Anybody's welcome if they appreciate the art."

Good Afternoon, I'm Keith Humphry, there's more News 7 at Five just ahead but first here's a look at what else you'll see tonight on News 7 at Six.

It's a mystical fairyland of sculpture just off a South Boston highway, the work of a tobacco market auctioneer.


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