However temporary a fixture it might be, Reno artist Mike Boyce is proud to have a piece of his "representational art" gracing the entrance of the Governor's Mansion.
"We're not in the mainstream with this. Virtually all public art is contemporary," the sculptor said. "I feel that's inappropriate, especially for people in the West."
Less public art should be abstract clumps of twisted metal, he said. More of it should represent the public or the region. And that's exactly what he says his bronze sculpture of two bighorn sheep, the Nevada state mammal, does.
"They're survivors," Boyce said. "That's one of the reasons I think they're so symbolic of the people of Nevada."
Bighorn sheep, of which there are three subspecies in Nevada, declined rapidly as settlers moved into the state in the 19th and 20th centuries. The rarest subspecies, the Sierra Nevada bighorns, which exists only in the Sierra Nevada, were declared endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in January 2000.
Through the efforts of conservationists and wildlife advocates, the Sierra Nevada sheep's population is recovering from an estimated low of 100 in the 1990s, and the other subspecies have successfully been reintroduced in places where they died out. That makes the animals survivors, Boyce said.
The bronze statue "First Light" is on loan to the state from Boyce and his Reno studio, Artistry in Bronze. It's still for sale, so it's undetermined how long it will remain at the base of the front steps of the Governor's Mansion on Mountain Street.
Representatives from the governor's office said they hope it will still be there come Nevada Day.
First lady Dema Guinn, whose wish brought the statue to Carson City, would rather it stay forever.
"When I walked into the studio, it was the first thing I saw. It just hit me right in the face," she said.
When asked what it might take to keep the $72,000-plus bronze in place, she replied "fund-raising."
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