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SIERRA COT]NTY ARTISTS DIRECTORY

Spring 2008 Volu411l lruth orlqlqqqqqgl \M

WPA Fountain at
T or C's New Mexico
Veterans Home
by Charles Bennett

An outdoor fountain in the central classes and showed several early clay
oatio of the Veterans' Center is models to the renowned sculptor
recognized as one of New Mexico's Auguste Rodin,who was favorably
WPATreasures. Made of terra cotta,the impressed and offered to critique her
fountain features 4frogs on the top sculptures any time. She was
tier,water emitting from their mouths, considered a student of Emile
with a single stream shooting vertically Bourdelle, a pupil of Rodin. lt was
from the very top of the fountain. Four cheaper for an artist to live in Paris than
sitting ducks occupy the second tier, in New York in those days. Eugenie and
water springing from their mouths, her mother shared a nicely furnished
with 4 turtles positioned at the base, apartment for S 10 a month near the
heads turned, also with water streams Luxembourg Gardens. Her nearby
arcing from their mouths. The terra studio cost 53 a month.
cotta material of the sculpted reptiles Eugenie made the most of her time
and ducks is commonly misidentified abroad, traveling to Czechoslovakia
as carved stone. with Mucha one summer where she
The artist of the fountain is Eugenie made clay models of villagers, and
Shonnard, born 1886 in Yonkers, New spending several summers in Brittany
York,dying 1978in Santa F6. Eugenie sculpting and painting. One of the
was apparently a delicate child and not sculptures she made of a Brittany
permitted to engage in normal villager is in the collections of the
childhood activities, instead finding Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
pleasure in keeping birds, rabbits, York. Eugenie and her mother stayed in
squirrels, doves, a lamb, and others Paris untilWorld War I was declared in
pets. From these experiences she August, 19,l4, returning to New York on
developed a deep love for animal life. the last steamer leaving France. The
In early recognition of her artistic talent next year she received perhaps her
she was enrolled in the New York most unusual commission from the
Schoolof Applied Design forWomen Bronx Zoo: sculpting the head of Dinah,
while in her teens. Although she a 5 year-old gorilla. For several months
received accolades for her designs for she was closeted in a room with the
silk, lace, and wallpaper, she soon tired gorilla, which became very fond of her.
of designing repetitive patterns, and ln 1925 Eugenie came to Santa F6 and
began modeling clay. One of her was given a studio in the Palace of the
teachers was the famous Governors. She was deeply impressed
Czechoslovakian artist Alphonse by the Puebloan Indians living in
Mucha, who encouraged her to go to villages along the Rio Grande studying
Paris to study sculpture. Her father them and modeling their busts in terra
having died, Eugenie and her mother cotta and olaster for which she was
went to France in 191 1. praised. ln 1926 she returned to Paris
8{4 In Paris Eugenie signed up for art with a successful one-woman
show featuring her animal, bird, collection of WPA artwork. In 1983 the
Puebloan Indian, and Brittany complex was renovated and currently
sculptures. By now she was considered serves as the New Mexico Veterans'
a noted sculptor and received manY Home.
commissions. ln 1927 Eugenie and her Many artists in New Mexico were
mother returned to Santa F6, again at employed under the Federal
the invitation of the museum. She government's New Deal Public arts
purchased a farm house on the out- programs created to employ artists
skirts of town surrounded by orchards, during the Great Depression (1929-
converting the barn into a studio. 1 943). Art produced under these

In 1937, during Clyde Tingley's second various programs has come to be


term as governor of New Mexico (1937- known as "WPA Art," an acronYm for
1938) he miraculously secured federal the New Deal program,theWorks
funding for construction of a hospital Progress Administration.
for crippled children. The hospital was Records indicate that Eugenie
to be located in Hot Springs (nowTruth Shonnard was paid 5700 in WPA
or Consequences), NM. Although the Federal Art Project funds in 1937 to
governor was the political clout behind make the fountain for the Carrie
the establishment of the hospital, New Tingley Hospital for Crippled Children.
Mexico First Lady Carrie Wooster She considered the fountain a major
Tingley was the heart and soul of the commission, mentioning in a 1964
project, donating both time and interview:"1 made the models and the
considerable funds. When money ran plaster molds and then I had it put in
short, Governor Tingley used his terra cotta. At the time they had a very
authority to manipulate budgets on big kiln in Denver where the Pieces
other projects to get more moneY, to could be fired. .. I did that only in the
have trainloads of penitentiary bricks studio and it was pretty big size...l did
appropriated and transported to the it in sections." The subject matter of
building site,to browbeat federal the fountain is said to reflect Eugenie
officials, and to intimidate the railroads Shonnard's "love for animal life". Some
and other big business in order to locals refer to it as "the turtle fountain,"
complete the hospital. The citizens of contextualizing it with Turtleback
Hot Springs voted to have the hospital Mountain. The fountain may be visited
named for Carrie Tingley. The hospital at the New Mexico State Veterans'
ooened in 1937 and remained in Home,992 South BroadwaY,Truth or
operation until 'l 981 when itwas Conseq uences, N M (57 5.894.4200).
moved to Albuquerque with its large

Turtle Fountain at
New Mexico
Veterans Home
in Truth or
Consequences

Photo: New Mexico veterans Home J+ 9

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