The West has always been a part of artist Herb Mignery’s life and work. So it was only fitting that the Colorado-based sculptor, who grew up on a ranch in Nebraska, was in Scottsdale on Thursday to help celebrate the city’s 18th annual Western-themed Art Walk.
Mignery, the artist chosen to design the Hashknife Pony Express monument to be unveiled in downtown Scottsdale on Feb. 1, greeted visitors Thursday at Scottsdale’s Trailside Gallery.
The gallery is selling miniature bronze replicas of Mignery’s “Passing the Legacy” monument which in a few months will stand near the vicinity of the Arizona Canal and Marshall Way.
Last November, members of Scottsdale Public Art selected Mignery’s design which depicts a 19th-century Pony Express rider passing a mailbag to the outstretched hand of a contemporary rider.
Mignery said he got the call on Nov. 7 — his birthday.
“I was very honored to be chosen for this project. This could be the flagship piece of my career,” said Mignery, whose public works range from statuettes he designed for the Country Music Awards to the Oregon Trail Monument.
Mignery started sculpting nearly 35 years ago at a colleague’s urging. Prior to delving in clay, he worked as an illustrator.
Mignery said his wife, Sherry, has a bracelet which has small charm replicas of his major works. “That bracelet is starting to get heavy,” Mignery joked.
Mignery was given a year to construct the $400,000 statue, which is being funded by Scottsdale Public Art and private donors.
Typically, he said, he converts his design’s dimensions by hand to create a full size plastic foam model of the sculpture’s base.
This time Mignery hired a Colorado company to convert the dimensions by computer and machine cut the foam — a move he said that took four months off the overall process.
After Mignery had the foam base in place, he added about a half inch of clay on top, where he carved in fine details such as the horse’s hair and wrinkles on the riders’ clothes.
Mignery said a mold was then created and divided into 170 sections which are now being cast in bronze at a Colorado foundry.
The 170 pieces, he said, will soon be assembled from the bottom up and welded — a process he plans to oversee.
The finished work, which is expected to be 20 feet long by 10 feet high and 8 feet deep, will be brought to Colorado by flatbed truck in January.
Mignery said he’s pleased the monument will have a prominent spot in Scottsdale and believes its Western theme will have a place in the increasingly cosmopolitan city.
“I hope people get the feeling of action and movement and better understand the hardships of the people of that day,” he said.