Documenting history through art |

Documenting history through art

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Dayton artist Mischell Riley says that she wanted two things when she was a child - be like Bruce Jenner and to be an artist. Riley made the 1984 Olympic Team as a high jumper and now makes bronze sculptures in her Mound House studio. She was commissioned by the Dayton Historical Society to create a sculpture of a Pioneer woman to be displayed in front of the new train depot. BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal

Sculptor Mischell Riley has found her niche in the world. She wants to document history through art.

Fine art depicting historic scenes or people “is when the past speaks to the future,” she said. “We have a real young country. In our parks, kids go and play their video games. Fine art and history should be present.”

The Dayton resident and owner of Bronze by Mischell in Mound House said she thinks there are more ways to display history than through plaques and historic markers.

“In Europe, people go to see the art and the history,” she said. “That’s what I want to do in the United States.”

Her view is shared by members of the Dayton Historical Society, who are raising funds to commission a statue of a pioneer woman and her child outside the new train depot.

Steven Saylor, a Dayton painter and member of the historical society, said the organization had approved a statue done by Riley and was working on raising the funds for it.

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The bronze statue, which Saylor said is based on the diary writings of pioneer Lucinda Parsons as she passed through Dayton in the mid-1800s, will cost at least $65,000 to complete.

“This is to honor Dayton as Nevada’s first settlement,” he said. “She does really nice work.”

Saylor did the initial design for a commemorative plate and coin, then passed the design on to Riley.

She is now doing a macquette – a small-scale version – of the Dayton sculpture, which will be the second life-size monument of a pioneer woman she has done.

The first is in Independence, Mo., along with an Osage Indian she sculpted. Her sculpture of philanthropist George Spiva is on display in Joplin, Mo.

The Dayton sculpture will be Riley’s first monument in Nevada. She has spent her two years here teaching at Lakeside Gallery in Kings Beach, among other places, and working on smaller, privately commissioned artwork. She would like to do more pieces for historical sites, golf courses, hospitals and other private groups.

There are finished and partially finished pieces all around her large studio, including busts of Mark Twain and Harry Truman.

“I would like to just do people, but my commissions are for all sorts of things,” she said.

While her business is increasing, Riley has the support of her landlord and sponsor, Brian Trekell, owner of Trekell and Co., a business that makes artists’ brushes. According to the company’s financial officer, Bobbi Scaffidi, if demand gets great enough for Riley’s work, he’ll build a foundry for her to use.

“He just believes in her work,” Scaffidi said.

Riley is also doing a life-size white marble male and female Greek torsos.

“That’s my hobby,” she said. “Whenever I get frustrated with clay, I work on the marble. Then when I go back to the clay, it’s so much easier.”

But her first love is bronze, mostly, she said, because it lasts.

“You think about it and some day you’re going to be dust and the pieces will still be around,” she said. “It’s a little scary. It’s going to speak to generations.”

n Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.