The-eye-catching 15-foot tall bronze sculpture, “Cowboy in a Storm” is nearing completion. It soon will be the centerpiece of the new roundabout under construction on Highway 89 at the northeast edge of Prescott.
The sculpture is the creation of the late renowned Western artist George Phippen. Appropriately, it will be located due west of the historic Phippen Museum, named in recognition of Phippen.
A native of rural Iowa and Kansas, Phippen later moved to Arizona where he began his career as an artist trying to capture the life of working cowboys. Many of his works are on display at the museum honoring him.
The complex sculpture was especially difficult to construct because of its unusual cantilevered design. The upper portion extends outward from its central anchor, said
Ed and Kathy Reilly, owners of Bronzesmith Foundry in Prescott Valley,
“The sculpture features a cowboy astride a bucking horse that is leaping over a calf. With the cowboy stretched out atop the horse, and the horse curled over the back of the calf, we really were challenged to create a structurally sound statue that, when finished, will weigh almost 3,000 pounds – a ton and a half,” said Ed.
The sculpture is among the larger ones ever cast by Bronzesmith. In its almost 25 years of being in business, the foundry has created thousands of sculptures and used tons of specially compounded bronze. Reilly says this latest one is special because it embodies the history of Prescott and its cowboy heritage.
The Phippen statue was produced through the efforts of several partners, including the Phippen Museum, the Prescott Art Trust, the City of Prescott and major private contributions from Jim Chamberlain and the Harold James Family Trust, among others.
The original sculpture was only 16 inches tall. Bronzesmith artist Deb Gessner used the original and fashioned a 15-foot Styrofoam replica, coated it in wax and then applied clay and sculpted it into a final piece that was used as the mold for the “lost wax” (sometimes called the investment casting) process.
“Gessner did a terrific job in capturing the motion and dynamic expression of the Phippen sculpture,” said Reilly.
It took about 65 individual pieces to form the final statue. “The largest piece – and the heaviest we’ve ever cast at our foundry – was the head. It weighs more than 200 pounds,” he said.
Skilled Bronzesmith welders and “chasers” – workers who put finishing touches on the pieces – have spent the last several months assembling the statue. Reilly said it would be complete in the next month or so and ready to mount on the concrete base in the center of the new roundabout.
The roundabout is but one phase of the multi-million dollar Highway 89 expansion that widens the road from two lanes to four lanes as it exits Prescott heading north toward Chino Valley. It is expected to be complete in early May. QCBN
By Ray Newton, QCBN
The massive bronze horse’s head is one of 65 pieces of the soon-to-be completed “Cowboy in the Storm” sculpture to be at the centerpiece of the roundabout on Highway 89 opposite the Phippen Museum on the northwest edge of Prescott. Welders Sam Hoeflicker and Billy Reilly will soon affix it on the horse’s body.
Photo by Ray Newton