Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Las Vegas, New Mexico Pioneer Woman

So far I have intended this blog to be my version of responsible, well referenced, (pseudo-) academic research oriented, "just-the-facts, ma'am, just-the-facts" writing. Today I am going to change all that and plunge into an argument with some folks from a decade and a half ago. I will have the advantage in this pursuit in that the other side will be limited to points made in a newspaper article kindly provided to me by a librarian - the cream of humankind. All the rebuttals to my arguments will have to be made by you, my readers. Both of you.

But first, the statue.
This information was gleaned from an article in the Thursday June 8, 1995 "The New Mexican," a Santa Fe daily newspaper. The article was written by H.L. Lovato. The sculpture was created by architect/sculptor Burke Rutherford as part of a deal made with New Mexico Highlands University, which is located in Las Vegas, NM. The arrangement seems to have gone something like this. Students at Highland would help cast their statue from 825 pounds of bronze, purchased by the university for $1,407 (a steal at today’s prices) and would also create a second casting from materials paid for by Rutherford. The students spent over 730 hours creating the Las Vegas casting. Whether or not the second casting was also done by students is not clear.

Here is the controversy, or as the newspaper headline put it, “Sculpture sows discontent.” (A little journalistic joke - the statue is sowing grain or something. Get it?) Jean Hinkie, an area resident, is quoted as saying “It doesn’t really represent the history of this area of New Mexico. It is not complete until a Hispanic and an American Indian woman are placed with their counterpart.” Hmmmm. Seems to me (a male) that it is not really “complete” until it has some men in it, all pioneers were not women, you know, and my faithful friend Gabe is throwing in “And dogs, there should be lots of dogs.” But we digress. Put another way, a work of art can never really tell the whole story of anything. Well, abstract art, maybe, but what is the story there? Whooops. Digressing again.

Even more perturbed than Hinke seemed to be Anselmo Arellano. Arellano is an educator and fairly prolific author of New Mexico Hispanic related books and articles and, I am happy to relate, not the Anselmo Arellano who shows up in “Find-a-Grave. At that time (1995) he was an oral history teacher at Highlands University. He said, (as only an oral historian can), “The female pioneers of Las Vegas were Hispanic. The Anglos did not arrive until after the Santa Fe Trail passed through the area.” He goes on to state that, with this in mind, the sculptured figure was dressed all wrong, that she should be wearing “t├ípalos or rebozos” and not in a bonnet or calico dress as featured on the statue.

A university spokesperson, Benita Budd, further muddied the waters by explaining, “It was not intended to represent Anglo women, nor was there any effort to represent any ethnic group.” Spoken like a true bureaucrat.

From my perspective we (I’m assuming that all you will agree with me) can pretty quickly dispense with the “no ethic group” sentiment. The woman sculpted was an Anglo, ‘cause, . . . if she looks like an Anglo and dresses like and Anglo, then she pretty much IS an Anglo. More to the point (at least my point) is, does a New Mexico Pioneer have to be Hispanic?

I am one of those who despairs sometimes about the WASPization of American History. Our history, as presented by movies and T.V. and even school textbooks could easily lead one to the conviction that all the Western expansion was done by folks who looked like, say, Ronald Regan. And it was not like that. On the other hand I was looking at a drawing of a US Cavalry soldier recently by the great Western artist Frederick Remington and the guy was black. The drawing was not labeled “Buffalo Soldier”, just “Soldier.” And it worked for me just fine. So it is with the Pioneer Woman.

Recently I found this picture of a pioneer woman and it could have been the same one that Rutherford and the students created.

My bottom line is that the artist willing to spend the time and effort involved with getting a bunch of 20 somethings to make a statue was, in all likelihood, an Anglo. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, the University accepted the work.

Now whether the statue its self is a great work of art is another issue that I probably will never take up.

Another casting of the statue, perhaps Rutherford’s, is located at Pioneer Park in Worland, Wyoming.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pioneer Woman at Texas Women's University

I release the contents of this article under the CC-By-SA and GFDL licenses, initially to be used in wikipedia, but also anywhere else. I am going to leave my references in, formatted for wikipedia and let us see what happens. I would like to thank Ann Barton, librarian, archivist and friend for her help on the article.

Pioneer Woman (Friedlander)
The '''Pioneer Woman''' statue is a significant work of art created by sculptor Leo Friedlander. It is located at the Texas Woman's University (TWU) in Denton, Texas and was commissioned as part of the the Texas Centenary celebrations.

On June 3, 1935 the Board of Regents at TWU passed a resolution stating that it urged "the Centennial Commission of Control to allocate the sum of $30,000 for the erection of a statue to the Pioneer Women of Texas to be erected on the campus as a part of the Centennial celebration. The idea for this statue originated with this institution, and . . . . . . the erection of this statue on the cam,pus will serve the women of the entire State, and will inspire their daughters to continued reference for the heroism and sacrifice of the pioneer women of the past who helped to make the Texas of the present." Board of Regents meeting, June 3, 1935, Book 32, page 44

University President L.H. Hubbard, proposed the a statue to the Centennial Commission who agreed and responded by announcing an open competition for sculptors to design the statue. However "the design of the statue, including the choice of the sculptor, the design, etc, were to be handled under the direction of the State Board of Control, and that the College had nothing whatever to do with the matter." The Board at that time had to be satisfied with recommending a site on campus where the statue would be placed. Board of Regents meeting, November 14, 1935, Book 33, page 18
In June of 1936 the TWU Board of Regents passed a motion requesting that the Texas Centennial Commission "erect a Memorial Chapel to Pioneer Women on the campus instead of the Statue as proposed at the present time." Had either the Regents or the members of the Centennial Commission known what lay ahead they might well have agreed to this request, and as it turned out, the university did eventually get its chapel, the Little Chapel in the Woods, designed by architect O'Neil Ford. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt spoke at its dedication in 1939. By October 1936 plans for the statue were moving forward by "inviting a group of leading American sculptors, about 80 in number, to submit photographs of their of their work and from this group several sculptors are to be chosen who will be required to submit models of the proposed statue to the Centennial Commission of Control and if the first model submitted is not acceptable other models will be submitted until an accepted group is submitted." Board of Regents meeting, October 3, 1936, Book 34, page 4 Foreshadowing if ever there was.

Among the artists who entered the competition was the Texas sculptor Waldine Tauch, who entered seven different competitions conducted by the Commission. She was to win three of them (memorials to Moses Austin, Isaac and Frances Van Zandt and First Shot Fired For Texas Independence monument) but she was not able to garner the Pioneer Woman statue. However she was to play a part in the ensuing drama.

One of the unique things about Tauch's model is it is the only Pioneer Woman statue I've identified where what appears to be the oldest or only child of the Pioneer is a girl.

It is not yet clear how many plaster models were submitted, but a "jury of professionals" unanimously chose the one submitted by William Zorach, a sculptor from New York, which included not just a pioneer woman, or a woman and child as did Tauch's model, but the entire family, mother, father, son and daughter. And they were all nude. Thurman, Nita, ''Original TWU pioneer statue caused a statewide hoopla'', Denton Record-Chronicle, February 15, 2006

Nudity was seen, by some, as being appropriate for Classical, allegorical or symbolical portrayals but was unacceptable for Texas pioneer women. Upon learning of the commission's decision Tauch "wasted no time telephoning and writing letters to many friends throughout the state to report the incident." Hutson, Alice, ‘’From Chalk to Bronze: A Biography of Waldine Tauch,’’ Shoal Creek Publishers, Austin, TX 1978 pp. 96-97
"Anguished protests from Texans swelled into a controversy dwarfing all previous ones (in Zorach's career). One astute observer noted the woman had no wedding ring .... while a chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas declared it, 'the greatest insult that could be offered to these women who believed and practiced the virtue of modesty' ."Baur, John I., ‘’William Zorach’’, Published for the Whitney Museum of American Art by Frederick A. Praeger, New York, 1959 p.33

Zorach wrote "The newspapers said that if a Texas pioneer had gone around in such a state of nudity he would have been strung to the nearest tree. ... Gutzon Borglum was down there at the time and I was told that he said my figures looked like a bunch of apes,'' a remark that was widely quoted by opponents of the statue at the time.
Richard Foster Howard, then director of the Dallas Museum of Art defended Zorach Baur, John I., ‘’William Zorach’’, Published for the Whitney Museum of American Art by Frederick A. Praeger, New York, 1959 p. 33 and the sculptor went so far as to revise his model so that the figures were clothed ''Here's What All the Row Was About'', Lasso, August 5, 1938 , but the damage had been done.
It did not take long for the public outcry to induce the commission to reverse its decision, to declare that there was no winner of the competition. "The commission was given quietly and without publicity to Leo Friedlander, a sculptor who had not ever entered the competition. " Hutson, Alice, ‘’From Chalk to Bronze: A Biography of Waldine Tauch,’’ Shoal Creek Publishers, Austin, TX 1978 pp. 96-97

The statue was modeled, and then following it's approval by the various committee's in Texas, carved by the Piccirilli Brothers in New York City. Little, Carol Morris, ‘’A Comprehensive Guide to Outdoor Sculpture in Texas’’, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas 1996 p. 195 At some point in the carving process someone, either Friedlander or the Piccirilli carvers became concerned that the statues right hand and her right thumb and fore finger might be too weak to be self-supporting, so a small block of marble was left to add strength. Often such aids are removed in the works final carving, they were not in this case.

On another side of the base the carvers included Leo Friedlander's name.

For the base of the statue the Dean of Women, Jessie H. Humphries, composed the following inscription:

"Marking a trail in a pathless wilderness pressing forward with unswerving courage she met each untried situation with a resourcefulness equal to the need. With a glad heart she brought to her frontier family her homelands cultural heritage. With delicate spiritual sensitiveness she illuminated the dullness of routine and the loneliness of isolation with beauty and with life abundant and with all she lived with casual unawareness of her value to civilization. Such was the pioneer woman. The unsung saint of the nations immortals." Jones, William Moses, ‘’Texas History: Carved in Stone’’, Monument Publishing Co., Houston Texas, 1958 p. 75

Years later Zorach's statue, still without clothes was cast in bronze and obtained by a Colorado bank. I "discovered" it in a courtyard of the bank's branch in Pueblo, Colorado. Later it was moved to Denver and now (2010) resides in front of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

Friday, March 4, 2011

the Sullivan gates, Denver Colorado, USA

It has been a long time since I posted here, but it's time, as the pioneers used to say, to get back in the saddle.
Many, perhaps a majority, of the Pioneer Women in sculpture that I have encountered dated from the 1920s and 1930s. However Leo Lentelli's "Sullivan Gates" are from earlier, 1918. The gates feature two 40 foot tall pylons, each topped by two figures. The two females represent "Agriculture" while the men are "Mining." One of the features of Pioneer women statues are the bonnets that most of them are adorned with, one being found on this pair.

The figures were produced by Lentelli in his studio in New Jersey, in clay. Plaster versions were made from the clay and then a mold was produced from the plasters. This was sent to Denver where the works were cast in cement over a metal armature. The pieces, not almost a century old have not worn well. Patches and repairs can be seen on them. Hopefully they well be preserved before it is too late.