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 Herb Mignery  (1937 - )

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Lived/Active: Colorado/Nebraska      Known for: western figure and wildlife sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Raised on the Mignery ranch near Bartlett, Nebraska, Herb Mignery knows western life first hand because the ranch of his childhood has been in the Mignery family for over 100 years.  It was assumed he would be a cowboy, but his love of art led him to illustration, both in the army and later in commercial art. 

In 1973, he cast his first bronze and from that time devoted himself to sculpture.  With bronze as his primary medium, he expresses his fascination "with the fluid movement of horse and rider, forming the basis for his strength in sculpting motion," meaning cowboys on horseback roping steers and driving cattle, Indians poised for defense, cattle roaming the plains, and buffaloes butting heads. 

With his figure pieces, he often depicts common folk including traditional westerners and "more subtle characters of the old and contemporary West: shepherds, settlers, and school teachers." Another theme is religion, with one of his standing bronze figures titled St. Francis of Assisi

Mignery's bronze pieces range in size from table top to larger than life size monuments.  He created the ten-inch high Pioneer Award statuette for the Academy of Country Music in Nashville, Tennessee; a life-size bust of President Gerald Ford for the performing arts center in Vail, Colorado; and a twenty-foot high Hashknife Pony Express sculpture for Scottsdale, Arizona.  In addition, he has completed monuments in South Dakota, Texas, Nebraska, Hawaii, New York and California.

Mignery also does oil paintings such as frontier ranch scenes with cattle, horses, and people tending them, and he is a cartoonist whose work has appeared regularly in Western Horseman since 1985.   

Mignery was elected into the National Sculpture Society* in 1996, and he is a founding member of Cowboy Cartoonists International.  He is a member of the Cowboy Artists of America*, and served as CAA President in 1992-1993.  At the CAA annual exhibitions, he has won top recognition for many years including the Sculpture Award, Gold, 1988, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2008; the Kieckhefer Award for Best of Show in 2000; and in 2008, the Ray Swanson Memorial Award.

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CA Cowboy Artists of America 44th Annual Exhibition 2009, Exhibition catalogue published by the Cowboy Artists of America and the Phoenix Art Museum.  Biography quotes are from this publication.

Lyne Pyne Davis, "The True Faces of the West", Southwest Art, May 2002

Artist Files of the Phoenix Art Museum Library

This biography from the Archives of AskART:


Phippen Memorial, Prescott, AZ; Ericson State Bank, Ericson, NE; First National Bank, Sioux City, IA; Empire Beef Days, Garden City, KS; Indian Culture Center, Spokane, WA; Nebraskaland Days, North Platte, NE; Haymarket Gallery, Lincoln, NE; Fort Robinson, Crawford, NE; Empire Gallery, Empire, CO

Submitted by Janet G. Smith, independent curator and art historian

Biography from Trailside Galleries:
Mignery attended Wayne State College from 1955-1959 and was an Army illustrator from 1961-1963. It was on that day in 1963, when he left the Army that he decided not to return to ranching but rather enter the art world.  Mignery put to use the drawing skills he developed during his off hours on the ranch when he became an illustrator in the Army, which in turn qualified him for positions in the commercial art world.  After several years of intensive work, he left the security of a paycheck and plunged into the world of fine art, devoting himself to portraying the ranch life he knew so well.

Mignery has worked in a variety of mediums, but in 1973, just 10 years after returning to civilian life, he cast his first bronze.  He decided then sculpture would be his first field, and bronze his medium.  Since that time he has executed numerous small works and monuments that are in both public and private collections across the nation.

His subjects often depict the difficult lives the people of the West have led.  The figures have a certain elegance and sense of classical composure in spite of the fact they are not idealized.  Farmers and ranchers have large, rough hands that have seen many hours of labor, and weathered but friendly faces.  Details tell us about the subjects, their profession, and their lives, so each sculpture completes a piece of the story of life in the West.

Mignery is a member of the Cowboy Artists of America, and was a founding member of Cowboy Cartoonists International.  Among his commissions are sculptures for the Academy of Country Music, American Express, U.S. West, Nebraska Historical Society, the City of Estes Park, Adams Mark Hotel, Leanin’ Tree Museum, Mid-America Boy Scout Council, and Charles Schwab Companies.  His work has been exhibited in numerous museum collections and at the 2002 Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage show.

Biography from Claggett/Rey Gallery:
The American cowboy is described by historians as a person of simple tastes and few possessions.  Herb Mignery fit this description in 1963 when he left the U.S. Army carrying his only belongings, a guitar and a saddle, bent on becoming an artist.

Herb was raised on the Mignery ranch near Bartlett, Nebraska.  The Mignery clan had made their living by ranching for 110 years, and it was naturally assumed that Herb would continue in that tradition.  As it turned out, he did, but with a special twist to the tale.  He is indeed a great cowboy, but is also a talented sculptor of character types of the historic West.  Herb's subjects are usually a bit haggard as a result of the difficult lives they have lead.  The figures have a certain elegance and sense of classical composure in spite of the fact that they are not idealized.  Farmers and ranchers have large, rough hands that have seen many hours of labor, and weathered but friendly faces.  Details and accoutrements tell us about the subjects, their profession, and their lives, so that each sculpture completes a piece of the story of life in the West.  The beauty of imperfections is what we see, for it is the imperfections that reveal the hidden tales of the figures' lives.

Herb is one of those down-to-earth people whom everyone finds charming.  He says, "One of my goals in life, as a chronicler, is to tell the story of people like those I grew up with--people who spend their whole lives in a 10-mile radius, who have stories that should be shown to the world.  I look at their faces and I see such stories.  I see so much anguish, heartache, happiness and every other emotion right in their own little world.  I see myself as a vehicle to let their stories be known.  I also want to show the world that the cowboy is not dead.  There are cowboys today, just like there were cowboys yesterday."

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, IV:
A traditional painter in various media and sculptor in bronze of Western figures, Herb Mignery was born in Bartlett, Nebraska in 1937 and lives in Hastings, Nebraska. “For serious subject matter,” he observes, “I like mountain man types because of the flowing garments and colorful appearance that characterizes them.  Also, their faces contain a wealth of character.  The same can be said of our ‘older’ cowboys of today."

“My early life centered around the ranch that my father and his brother own in the Nebraska sandhills.  Roping was my pastime.  Afoot or on horseback, it is the only thing that fascinates me as much as art.  I’ve been drawing since I can remember.  First it was pencil sketches of horses, cowboys, etc.  After high school, it was cartooning for the college newspapers, a year on construction, then two years as an Army illustrator.  After the Army, I worked at sign painting, bar tending, and singing in a country Western band.  In Hastings, I was employed as a commercial artist for a printing firm, and did free-lance work for the Thomas D. Murphy calendar company and advertising agencies."

“Eight years ago, I opened my studio and began to do bronze sculpture on a full time basis. Although it goes quite slow at times, I’ve found it to be my most ‘comfortable’ media.  I don’t start out with any detailed sketches, but just ‘jump in’ and do my experimenting on the actual piece.  If a part of it doesn’t look right, I cut it away and start over.  I feel too much ‘paper preparation’ takes the spontaneity from a sculpture.  Since 1974, I have completed 21 bronzes, many of which deal with the subject matter of my early life.”

Contemporary Western Artists, by Peggy and Harold Samuels 1982, Judd’s Inc., Washington, D.C.

Biography from Nuevo Santander Gallery:
The artist was born in Bartlett, Nebraska.  He served as an illustrator during his army service and also worked as a commercial artist drawing humorous western cartoons.  He devoted himself to fine art and portraying the ranch life when he cast his first bronze in 1973. Numerous small works and monuments created by the artist are on display in public and private collections across the country.

He is a member of the Cowboy Artists of America.  The artist describes his artwork as "Western Americana".  He says, "My subjects encompass much more than cowboys - my themes are taken from the everyday life of our society both past and present.  I feel that our attitude and our view of our future can only be determined by an examination of our ancestors.  Just as a weathervane points toward the source of the wind, it must also point to the direction the wind is going.  Likewise, we must focus our attention both ways to avoid losing those valuable lessons so painstakingly learned by those before us.”

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