Ken Pridgeon made a living painting billboards and barges in the Greater Houston area, but he did not see himself as a portrait artist until 2008, when he began painting portraits of Texas soldiers who died in action. Since then, Pridgeon said he has painted more than 200 portraits. These paintings are now on display in the Fallen Warriors Memorial Gallery on Cutten Road.
Pridgeon said families of fallen soldiers often ask him to paint a portrait, and other times Pridgeon chooses who to paint. Pridgeon said he reads the soldier’s epitaph or watches his or her funeral on YouTube to learn more about the soldier’s life before he begins a painting.
This allows him to include pieces of a soldier’s life in the background of the portrait, he said. For example, one solider played football and rode bulls, so he painted both in the background.
After painting a portrait, Pridgeon gives the soldier’s family an 18-by-24-inch digital print. The portraits rotate in and out of display at the gallery. There are about 100 portraits hanging in the gallery at any given time, Pridgeon said.
Pridgeon relocated his gallery from a small space in Baytown to his new location within Cy-Champ Public Utility District’s office on Cutten Road in March. Cheryl Whitfield, founder of Houston-based National Memorial Ladies, worked with the PUD to bring Pridgeon’s work to Spring. The nonprofit organization is a volunteer service for the Houston National Cemetery.
Whitfield also worked with the PUD to build and open the Fallen Warriors Memorial on Cutten Road in 2006. It is owned and maintained by the district, Cy-Champ PUD President Ron Walkoviak said.
The gallery’s proximity to the memorial offers visitors two different ways to honor fallen soldiers, said Richard Spurlock, Cy-Champ PUD vice president.
“It’s strange how solemn it feels [at the memorial], but then you come [to the gallery], and all of these portraits are more about their life and their living and not their passing,” Spurlock said. “So it’s a good connection.”
Fallen Warriors Memorial Gallery
13445 Cutten Road, Houston
Hours: Thu.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. 1-4 p.m., or by appointment.