Prescott is now the home of a piece of inspirational art, as it unveiled “Heroic Challenges” — a new bronze casting of a sculpture created by Sedona’s own Clyde “Ross” Morgan — as part of its Veterans Sports Park on Aug. 17.
Morgan’s work can be seen in a few spots across Arizona, but his most recognizable piece to Sedonans is probably the larger-than-life sculpture of cowboy artist Joe Beeler in Uptown, titled “Red Rocks and the Cowboy Artist.”
For Morgan, a longtime resident of the Village of Oak Creek and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, creating the piece was an important way to honor those who continue to make sacrifices in the name of military service.
“Well, the park had already been started when I got involved,” he said. “I kept asking them for a model who was a veteran, because I like authenticity in my pieces, and they were coming up with either [models with] two prosthetics or guys who were overweight or whatever.”
Morgan said that it took a little while before he could find just the right model to use for what he wanted to create — an amputee runner — but an interview he saw on television gave him exactly what he needed.
“They were interviewing this veteran about his story and I thought, ‘That’s the guy,’” he said. “What he had done, was he was in Afghanistan for three weeks and his vehicle was blown up by an [improvised explosive device] and he had his leg removed and while he was in the field hospital, they also were going to remove his right arm.”
What really solidified it for Morgan was what he learned about the veteran in question.
“The blast had done what they call ‘degloving,’ where it blows the flesh and the hide up off the bone,” he said. “So the doctor rolled it [the flesh] back down to see what they could do with it and he saw the Marine Corps emblem tattooed on his arm. The doctor had been a Marine and he said, ‘This man is a Marine, we better do what we can to save his arm.’”
The veteran in question — Alex Minsky — has made the rounds on television talk shows after becoming an alternative model and inspirational figure, thanks to his physique, tattoos and the disability he had to overcome.
“He had shrapnel wounds, and he was in a coma for 47 days, not expected to live,” Morgan said.
Morgan said that Minksy’s story of overcoming adversity made him just the right person for the piece.
“When I saw him, that was the fifth national morning show he had done. We were able to get him to come up here,” Morgan said, adding that Minsky was flown out to Prescott so that Morgan could take measurements and get what he needed to begin sculpting the piece. “The day he got here was the day after he appeared on “[The Tonight Show with] Jay Leno,” and that was the 27th of June, and that was when I started this whole project.”
Morgan said that this created an extremely small window for him to make the casting in time for the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 17.
“What I had to do was create a small model, then we had to send the scan of that to San Francisco to be enlarged in foam, and that was shipped back here. I had to do the enlargement of that, we had to do the molds,” he said. “Basically I took a six-month project and squeezed it into a little over five weeks, which the foundries in Prescott said was impossible.”
Morgan said that he ended up taking the piece to a foundry in Colorado instead.
“I had to take the waxes to the busiest foundry in the country,” he said. “We took the waxes up there, stayed up there for about a week while the casts were done, and then raced the pieces down here and got them welded together before the dedication.”
Morgan said it was a rare occasion to do a project so quickly.
“My guess is that’s some kind of a record,” Morgan said. “It takes the foundries at least four months, and I would’ve liked to have several months myself, but they’d already established the date of the dedication.
“It just didn’t seem right that it wouldn’t be done in time for the dedication. So that was my goal, and being a former Marine, we get things done.”
While visitors to the park in Prescott might notice the bronze, oversized version of Minsky lacks his trademark tattoos, Morgan made sure to include the one piece of body art that he thought was most important: the Marine Corps emblem on Minsky’s arm.
“He has tattoos all over,” Morgan said of Minsky. “Old Marine guys were asking me, ‘You gonna put all them tattoos on there?’ and I said, ‘No, just one.’”