A pioneer lady of refinement - and one of true grit at the same time - stands 10 feet tall in the Bronzesmith Fine Art Foundry and Gallery in Prescott Valley awaiting her debut at the town's Civic Center on Feb. 14, 2013.
Her name is "Not-So-Gentle Tamer," and Bronzesmith sculptor Debbie Gessner has created her in a larger-than-life stature clay enlargement from a painting by historian and artist Bob Boze Bell. "Not-So-Gentle Tamer" is standing in her garden, dressed "in her Sunday finest," and probably ready to get on a buckboard because she has gloves on. She is attired in a ruffled shirtwaist and an embroidered vest over a many-petticoated skirt with a bustle in the back. What sets her apart from the gentle as "Not-So-Gentle" is the shovel she holds in one hand and the headless snake in the other.
Bell's inspiration for "Not-So-Gentle Tamer" was his grandmother Louise Guess, the wife of an Arizona rancher who he remembers "calmly dispatching rattlesnakes with her trusty hoe."
Prescott Valley Councilwoman Lora Lee Nye chaired the Yavapai Centennial Committee, which observed Arizona's centennial with a gala on statehood day this year. In searching for ways to help finance the gala, the committee decided to conduct a drawing for one of Bell's painting, and Nye chose "Not-So-Gentle Tamer." Ed Reilly, owner of the Bronzesmith, suggested taking the project further by making a statue of her.
The statue is ready for bronze casting, but only a third of the $87,000 to complete it has been raised, Reilly said.
People can choose several ways to help pay for the statue. They can buy a 12-inch version of the statue for $1,600 or a 24-inch version for $3,200. Donors who contribute a tax-deductible donation of $4,000 or more will get their individual, group or business name on a bronze plaque that will be permanently displayed beside "Not-So-Gentle Tamer." For a $1,000 tax-deductible donation, donors will get their names engraved on a granite tile that will be part of a dedication wall beside the statue. One-half of the proceeds from sales of the limited-edition 12- and 24-inch versions will go toward paying for "the big girl," Reilly said.
Also, 200 tickets are on sale for a drawing for a 24-inch sculpture of "Not-So-Gentle Tamer" to add more money to the project's coffers. Tickets are $20 each or six for $100.
For information about any of these opportunities to help pay for the statue, call Nye at 928-420-0051 or the Bronzesmith at 928-772-2378.
The public is invited to visit the Bronzesmith, 7331 E. Second St., in Prescott Valley from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guided tours through the complete foundry process are offered at 11 a.m. on Thursdays for $10.
The Bronzesmith is planning an open house for the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 17. Bob Boze Bell will be on hand for this special event.
Arizona, as Reilly pointed out, was among the first states to grant women the right to vote within the state, even though the Legislature had to temporarily rescind the right in order to get the final statehood proclamation approved by Congress and the U.S. president. The federal government did not recognize women voters until 1920
In that respect, "Not-So-Gentle Tamer" represents the pioneering spirit that the League of Women Voters espouses.
Vicky O'Hara, president of the local League of Women Voters, said, the concept of the League embodies women's pioneering spirit in this country. "We have fought for equal rights and women's issues throughout our history. The statue exemplifies this spirit, she said. "The women who built the West were fighting for a better life for their families and equal rights and an equal voice," as well. O'Hara added that the League has pledged to be a donor to help finance the statue.
Reilly said children will find a surprise hidden in the final statue, but he sees surprises now in people's faces when they visit the Bronzesmith and look at the statue.
"When people see it, their jaws drop," he said. They say "Wow."