May 26, 2013
Drove up to Prescott yesterday morning in very heavy traffic. I would have thought all the Memorial Day travelers had beat cheeks up the hill on Friday, but it was bumper to bumper all the way to Cordes Junction.
Got to the plaza in Prescott at about 10:30 (I thought the event was at the Phippen Art Museum, only to find out it was sponsored by the Phippen on the plaza in Prescott so that added a half hour to the commute).
This was my first glimpse at the finished bronze based on my painting "Not-So-Gentle Tamer" and I wasn't disappointed. The sucker weighs 1,000 pounds and is ten-feet-tall. They had to transport it from Bronzesmith in Prescott Valley by truck and then they had to utilize a crane to park it on the northwest corner of the plaza, making it the first thing you see as you approach the show.
All day people would round the corner, stare up and then gasp, "Wow!" and then, "Look at this honey!" Lots of picture taking and questions: "Is this going to be the permanent location?" being one of the most asked. No, the sculpture will be unveiled on July 27 at 10 in the morning at the Prescott Valley Civic Center in Prescott Valley and this is her first public showing as a full-scale bronze.
Here are the main people who made the statue happen:
At left, Ed Reilly of Bronzesmith, who saw the potential for the statue and contacted me the day after the centennial celebration, February 14, 2012, where my painting of Tamer was auctioned off, to see if I was interested. I told him I was but that I had never done a sculpture and he said, "Don't worry, I'll find someone to help you." And did he ever: Deb Gessner transformed my idea into a wonderful presentation of my two grandmothers: Minnie and Guessie; and in the center is Lora Lee Nye who worked tirelessly to make the bronze happen. We needed to raise some $85,000 for the casting cost and as late as two months ago we were stuck about $27,000 short. It was Lora Lee who dug deep, called in a favor, pressed the flesh and got 'er done!
Along with the many, many compliments of the tall lady there were a few not-so-kind remarks. One older gentleman took one look at it and said, "That is disgusting!" before walking away in a huff. And some wildlife fans have taken offense at celebrating the killing of one of God's creatures. Live and let live, they say, but as so many women who came by commented, "Rattlesnakes are territorial and I could not allow them around my house and my kids." Amen, sister. That was the point of the whole deal, to honor the brave and tenacious women of Arizona who tamed the West AND the men.
I didn't know this, but as it turns out, there was some official resistance to the statue from a very unlikely source. While funding was in progress, a ranching woman on one of the Prescott art council boards took issue with the historical accuracy of the piece. "No Arizona woman ever did this," was one of her comments in a public meeting, along with, "She would have used a hoe, not a shovel." Okay, the first comment is ridiculous, but the second one has some merit. I remember my grandmother Guess using a trusty hoe, and I tried several studies utilizing a hoe but it just looked wimpy and wrong, and not heroic enough. It needed something bolder, a scepter, more regal like, yet humble, and so I ended up going with a shovel. But the kicker, is this: "The hat is historically incorrect," she said with some authority. Now THAT hurts! For me to spend my life getting the hats right from Billy the Kid to Custer to Geronimo, and then for someone to attack me on the historical accuracy of a woman's hat in the Old West period is, well, pretty damned ironic.
I can absolutely defend the hat, of course. Ms. Criticizer claimed she would be wearing a bonnet. Okay, yes, the bonnet would be historically correct for the 1880s in Arizona, but even then, it is not the only head gear women wore. And I can show you dozens of photos of Arizona women wearing big hats, especially in the 1890s—1905 period, and this Tamer is celebrating the centennial which dates from 1912, so I think I'm quite safe in staking my provenance on this one.
Okay, I've said enough. Gee, I wonder what the Old Vaqueros have to say about all this?
"Mas vale callar que mucho hablar."
—Old Vaquero Saying (Silence is worth more than excessive talking)