Organizations* : CAA
Herb Mignery was born in Bartlett, Nebraska. Best known for his sculpture, his early life centered around his father’s and brother’s ranch in the Nebraska sand hills. His memories of that ranch are brought to life in his sculpture of the authentic, colorful and diverse people who populate the rural American West. They are the unglamorous individuals rarely seen in Hollywood westerns: a big-knuckled farmer sowing seed, a heavy-set woman digging potatoes, a bony preacher traveling on horseback, a wiry cowboy falling off his frightened horse.
In Mignery’s view, the common people of the American West have never been the stereotypical cowboys in white hats with roaring six-guns or Indians in war bonnets riding into the sunset. “The true West was better and far more interesting than that. The people who composed the West were people who worked hard, who created a country, and who raised children who contributed something to society,” says Mignery. “They didn’t dress fancy and weren’t exceptionally pretty people, necessarily, but I see so much character and flavor in them. The older you get, the more you start looking for subtleties in life and art.”
Although Mignery characterizes his subject matter as Western Americana, encompassing farmers, schoolteachers, horses, sheepherders, immigrants, gardeners, American Indians and more, he also expresses his spiritual beliefs with religious themes. These works use classical European styles to depict such subjects as St. Michael battling Satan, St. Patrick and the Madonna. Occasionally, Mignery has integrated the two directions by taking a traditional, classical European approach to his Western subject matter.
Whatever his subject matter, however, Mignery abhors violence and chooses not to add more violent images to the world. He likes to feel good and positive when he completes a work of art. Yet, Mignery is drawn to the intrigue and beauty of imperfections, such as a homely face, or worn and ragged clothing. “To me, the imperfections of people are what give them character…In art, you need imperfections that create interest to grab onto.”
Mignery’s award-winning career includes a long list of public monuments done for cities, collectors and institutions across the nation. He is also a popular cartoonist, and his comic cowboy cartoons have appeared regularly in Western Horseman magazine since 1985. He has illustrated books, and his art has appeared on calendars, greeting cards, prints, posters and T-shirts.
Elected to the National Sculpture Society in 1996, Mignery has also served on its Board of Directors, as well as serving as president of the Cowboy Artists of America 1992-1993 and is a founding member of Cowboy Cartoonists International. “I love diversity and haven’t wanted to restrict myself to one theme,” he explains.
Reference: Gallery publication, Southwest Art magazine