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 Bill Nebeker  (1942 - )

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Lived/Active: Arizona/Idaho      Known for: western sculpture-cowboys, Indians, horses

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known for his detailed, well researched sculpture of authentic depiction of the historical American West in the tradition of Charles Russell and Frederic Remington, Bill Nebeker of Prescott, Arizona has been a member of the Cowboy Artists of America* since 1978.  Among his honors at annual exhibitions of the CAA are the Sculpture Award, Gold in 1989 and Silver in 1985; and Kiekhofer Award  for Best of Show, 1989.  In Kerrville, Texas, the Cowboy Artists Museum featured a 30 year retrospective of his work in the late 1990s.

He does not have traditional art training and describes himself as having irregular work habits, working sometimes intensely and then taking many days off.   He has been a full-time artist since 1976, and is devoted to realism and accurate depiction of his subjects, which include Indians, cowboys, frontier settlers and animals.   "When he sculpts Native Americans, he researches their culture, clothing, weapons and symbols to be sure his depiction is historically accurate, with the dignity they deserve." (CA).

He was inspired to become a sculptor in the early 1960s when he saw sculpture by George Phippen at a one-man show in Skull Valley, Arizona. 

Once established on his path of creating western sculpture and the year after Phippen died (1966), Nebeker began to work at Phippen's foundry, the Bear Paw Bronze Works in Skull Valley, operated by a son of Phippen.  Nebeker's wife, Merry, also took a job at the foundry, and because of this immersion, Nebeker received a hands-on education from the Phippen family in making western sculpture.  He also met many top western sculptors such as Veryl Goodnight, Richard Greeves, and Joe Beeler.

Realizing he could make more money selling his own sculpture, Nebeker quit the job at the foundry in 1978 and moved to Prescott with his family, which by then was three children as well as his wife.

Arizona has recognized Nebeker as one of its outstanding artists.  In 2009, he was named Arizona Culturekeeper by representatives of the Arizona State Historical Society who give the honor to an individual who "has made a positive impact on Arizona's history, culture or economy, and are pioneers of Arizona through family ties, business, civic leadership or passiona contributions to a cause that is distinctily Arizona." (CA).

* For references for these terms and others, see AskART Glossary

Mary Nelson, "The Beat of a Different Drum", Art of the West, September/October 2005, pp. 56-61

CA Catalogue, Cowboy Artists of America, 44th Annual Exhibition 2009, p. 18

Artist Files of the Phoenix Art Museum Library

Biography from Pitzer's Fine Arts:
Looking at a Bill Nebeker sculpture gives one an honest and authentic portrayal of the historic American West or contemporary ranch life. Quiet tributes, subtle humor and wry observations underlie Nebeker's work. His knack for weaving an unobtrusive storyline into a sculpture challenges the unsuspecting viewer, "Oh! Now I get it!" That moment of discovery is at the heart of experiencing and appreciating Bill's bronzes.

Inspired to begin sculpting in 1964 when he went to an art show by George Phippen, the first President of the Cowboy Artists of America, Bill became a member of the Cowboy Artists of America in 1978. Since then Bill has won Gold and Silver in sculpture, Best of Show and the Phoenix Art Museum Purchase Award, as well as being twice elected President by his fellow artists. His talent has been recognized by several cities in Arizona by awarding him several important, larger than life-sized statue commissions, to depict their historic or current honorable citizens.

Prescott has his four-figure monument Early Prescott Settlers; Glendale has his Territorial Sheriff, and Phoenix has Memorial to Fallen Officers at the Arizona Department of Public Safety Headquarters. In June of 2006 the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Spring, Colorado unveiled a portrait statue of Robert C. Norris in front of the new Norris/Penrose Events Center. In 2009 Nebeker was honored by the Arizona Historical Society and Marshall Trimble, Arizona's State Historian, with the Arizona Culturekeeper Award, for his outstanding contributions to the history, art, civic leadership, and entrepreneurial spirit, because of his bronze sculptures enriching several Arizona cities.

Raised in Prescott, Arizona since early boyhood, he has his heart with ranchers and outdoorsmen of all cultures past and present. His childhood hobby of whittling horses, dogs, other animals and toys developed without formal instruction into the God given talent he shares today with admirers all over the world.

His sculptures are included in the Cowboy Artists of America Sale at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK;  Prix de West in Oklahoma City; Autry Museum's Masters of the American West in Los Angeles, CA; Quest for the West Art Show at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, IN; Phippen Museum Western Art Show in Prescott, AZ; and the Cheyenne Frontier Days Western Art Show at the Old West Museum.

In the 40 years of his career, Bill has had stories about his life and work featured in Arizona Highways, Art of the West, Southwest Art, Cowboys and Indians, Western Art Collector, Western Horseman, Horse and Rider, Phoenix Home and Garden and Persimmon Hill.

His work is in the collections of the Eiteljorg Museum, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Booth Western Art Museum, Museum of Western Art in Kerrville, Phoenix Art Museum, Phippen Museum in Prescott, Palm Spring Desert Museum and Desert Caballeros Museum in Wickenburg. well as many corporate and personal collections around America.

Biography from Trailside Galleries:
Cowboy artist Bill Nebeker grew up along the Snake River in Idaho.  As a boy, he always whittled dogs and horses, miniature cowboys, boots, and saddles but never considered it an art.  His interest in sculpting was sparked in 1964 when he accompanied his parents to a one-man showing of sculptor George Phippen’s artwork. From that day, he just knew he had to try his hand at clay.

At first, Nebeker only sculptured in his spare time, but in 1976, he decided he was ready to swim or sink as a full time artist.  Two years after his leap of faith, he was elected to membership with the Cowboy Artists of America.  He was 36 years of age and the association’s youngest member.  During the years since, Nebeker has solidified his reputation among his peers and collectors alike and in 1992, served as President of the Cowboy Artist of America.

He also received his share of accolades including the association’s Silver Medal and Best of Show in 1989.  In addition, Bill has created several monuments in Arizona.  His work was selected for the 2002 Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage show.

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