John Wayne statue by Bill Nebeker

John Wayne

Feo, Fuerte, y Formal

by  Bill Nebeker

The bronze sculpture of John Wayne was created by Bill in 1974 not only to honor the Duke’s amazing career as an actor, but for the contributions he made as a great American patriot. The piece was controversial, as the Viet Nam war was still a big issue during the 1970’s in this country, and the Scottsdale gallery representing Bill did not want to display or advertise his latest artistic creation. But the Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo convinced the artist to donate one statue to the association for the All Around Cowboy Award.

As it turned out, unbeknownst to Bill, his father-in-law was the chairman on a school board that one of John Wayne’s business partners in a cattle ranch in Southern Arizona was also a member. A request to view the statue was made and an appointment to meet John Wayne at his ranch was set up for Bill and Merry in the fall of that year.

When the meeting took place Mr. Wayne gave Bill and the statue his enthusiastic endorsement by putting his personal signature in each of the 12 wax editions to be cast. He also purchased several of Bill’s other sculptures, and two of Mr. Wayne’s business partners bought copies of the JOHN WAYNE bronze. As a result of the newspaper and magazine articles spawned by this event, Bill became one of the up-and-coming western artists. The sculpture was inspired by the last scene in the movie THE SEARCHERS, where John Wayne is silhouetted alone in a doorway with the wind and sands of Monument Valley blowing his hat and kerchief. Also inscribed on the bronze are the words Wayne wanted on his tombstone, translated from Spanish, “He Was Ugly, Strong, and had Dignity.” The bronze is on permanent display at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

The Duke told Bill and Merry an amazing story about the scene Bill had chosen to depict in the sculpture. It had coincidentally marked a turning point in John Wayne’s entire acting career. All through the movie he had been grumbling about being typecast, and tired of always playing the same character. He was passed over for the award-winning roles other actors were getting. Harry Carey, Sr. had been his lifelong hero, and Mrs. Carey played the frontier mother in THE SEARCHERS. She had been barraged by his constant complaining, and took him aside on the very last day of shooting and said, “How would you feel if you went to a movie and saw Harry playing a murderer, rapist or traitor?” John Wayne said,

“I wouldn’t have liked that at all!” Then Mrs. Carey replied, “The people who love and admire you wouldn’t like seeing you do that either, so be satisfied with your movie roles.”

As the last scene of the last day of shooting was wrapped up, he reached over and held his arm in the manner Harry Carey had been known for doing in his scenes. John Wayne copied that stance to let Mrs. Carey know she was right, and he would honor her husband by playing the roles his fans would always appreciate, no matter what the career outcome.

John Wayne & Merry 1974John Wayne StatueJohnWayneStatue&Nebeker 1974&5

CA 50th Booth Museum Reunion Retrospective Exhibition

The Cowboy Artists of America celebrated their 50th Anniversary with a retrospective exhibition at the Booth Western Art Museum this past June 25-28, 2015.  This exhibition included at least one piece of art from every person who has ever been a member of the CAA. Another part of the exhibit was the current active and emeritus members newest paintings and sculptures that will be available to purchase at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City this coming October 10, 2015. During the exhibition our new CA 50th Anniversary book, “The Sons of Charlie Russell”, written by B. Byron Price was presented for the first time.

2015 Booth RedSteagall Merry&BillNebeker2015 CA50th BoothExhibiton2015Seth HopkinsMartin Greele&Bill Nebeker

Captain William Gary (larger than life size portrait bust)

I was so honored & privileged to have my larger than life sized bronze portrait bust of our friend & associate, Captain William (Bill) Gary, unveiled at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, TX. Bill Gary was the founder, board of diector member, financial benefactor & enthusiastic promotor & supporter of the MMA. I was joined at these ceremonies by Kathy McCraine, Bill Gray’s daughter, her husband Swayze, my wife Merry Nebeker, and two new friends who have a huge connection to Prescott & Bill Gary; Boe James & Marie James. Boe is on the board of directors of the Marine Mitary Academy and is part of the Harold James Foundation, which has been the benefactor to so many public, civic & cultural projects in Prescott. Most important to Merry & I is the Phippen Museum of Western Art. It was an amazingly inspiring & patriotic weekend that we will never forget. This academy is a great place to educate & build young men into America’s future leaders.