Sonoita sculptor Deborah Copenhaver Fellows never met the late Arizona senator and former presidential candidate Barry Goldwater - but she feels as though she's gotten to know him over the past few months.
She's studied the champion of conservative values as preparation to create a statue of him to be placed at the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall next year.
The statue will replace one of 20th-century Arizona businessman John Campbell Greenway, and will be one of two statues representing the state. The other is an existing Father Eusebio Kino piece.
The Arizona Historical Advisory Commission commissioned the Goldwater statue, which will be paid for by donations. The commission and the Goldwater family chose Copenhaver Fellows' piece as the winner.
"Man, it's exciting," she said. "It's been a lot of work so far."
Copenhaver Fellows will create a 7-foot statue of Goldwater in his 50s. He'll be wearing jeans and peering into the Grand Canyon with a camera in hand, "prepared to capture the beauty of Arizona," she said.
Although design elements could change, current plans call for the statue's pedestal to bear Arizona's state seal, as well as a Navajo expression that translates to "welcome" that Goldwater hung on his Senate office door.
Her proposal caught the eye of the selection committee.
"I was born and raised here and very familiar with all that Mr. Goldwater did for Arizona and the U.S. I even had the opportunity to meet him once, and it looks like Mr. Goldwater," said Anne Wallace, a consultant on staff with the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission who was on the panel that selected the project.
Copenhaver Fellows expects to start work in February on a clay model of the statue. Then she'll tote it to Prescott in a horse trailer, where it will be cast in September and unveiled sometime next year.
The artist, 64, lives with her husband, painter and sculptor Fred Fellows, on a 30-acre ranch in Sonoita. Her previous work includes a Bing Crosby statue at Gonzaga University and the Washington State Korean War Memorial.
"How does this rate among the others I've done?" Copenhaver Fellows asked. "As far as someone who has had the most impact as a single figure, I think this is probably the most timely. And I'm as excited about this as anything I've done."
Copenhaver Fellows responded to a call for artists in June. In August, she and four other finalists were paid to create a monument-sized bust and a 1/3-sized scale model of the statue. Copenhaver Fellows turned in the work on Dec. 3 and was told Jan. 19 that she'd been selected for the commission.
The Fellowses moved to Sonoita from Montana 11 years ago. They raise quarter horses at their ranch.
"We love it out here," Copenhaver Fellows said. "We're outdoors, we're working with animals and have a few head of cattle we rope."
Copenhaver Fellows said she's become a fan of Goldwater after reading about him, seeing him speak in videos and learning about his background, which included staunch, ranch-raised conservative values that match her own.
She said Goldwater's most impressive physical aspect is his "manly, craggy face."
"You get more character with age," she said. "He was vital. A very good-looking man. Quite unique."
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or email@example.com