JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — Renewed interest in a statue located near Quartermaster Station in Jeffersonville has sparked talks of relocating it to a more prominent area of the city.
A recent Facebook post brought attention to the metal structure known as "The Lady," with many commenters showing support for the idea of having it moved, referring to its present location as "hidden" or "tucked away."
The 20-foot statue currently sits between railroad tracks and stacks of pallets next to Kentuckiana Wood Products, a site that was occupied by Montel Metals when the "The Lady" was built.
Erected in the mid-1980s, "The Lady" is a component of a multi-piece work of art known as "Winds of Change."
Next to the statue stands a sign inscribed with the words "I am your mother, yet I am a woman, standing into the Winds of Change. Expected to be strong, yet gentle. Expected to be better than good, yet not reflect that I know I am good. The Winds force me to Change, yet I do not want to be anymore than I am. A woman, your mother. Take my hand. We will stand together into the Winds of Change. — The Lady."
According to Denver Eldridge, who was a mechanic at Montel Metals, the daughter of one of his coworkers created the original design for the artwork, which caught the eye of Larry Myers, Eldridge's boss.
"She was an art student," Eldridge said. "She made this clay statue that was probably about a foot tall or so. Larry liked it and decided he was going to have the statue made."
Myers then hired an artist from Floyds Knobs named Carl Elwanger to bring the concept to fruition.
From 1983 to 1985, Eldridge said Elwanger worked diligently to complete the "The Lady," with the young woman who designed the statue assisting throughout the process.
"He was pretty much there all day every day, just like a normal, full-time employee." Eldridge said. "He was really good at welding. He was very talented. They brought him in and started building that thing in the shop. It took more than a year or so."
Several websites and other sources have referred to the statue as "The Hubcap Lady," claiming it was created entirely out of hubcaps. This oft-repeated belief, however, is erroneous, Eldridge said.
"I can see how people thought that with (Montel Metals) being a scrap operation," Eldridge said. "Maybe people thought he used scrap hubcaps or something, but we didn't scrap automobiles. The body of it was built out of all new material."
Construction began with the creation of the core of the statue, which Eldridge called the most challenging phase. A frame composed of steel rebar had to be meticulously crafted in the shape of the intended design to prevent the structure from collapsing. Pieces carved from sheets of stainless steel with a plasma cutter were then wrapped around the core.
To add to the statue's aesthetic qualities, multiple types of material were used to create different portions of "The Lady."
"They did that because the colors of the metals change differently from the effects of weathering," Eldridge said. "The arms, I think, are made out of copper. Her face is done out of brass. Her hair was done out of another material. The shawl was just made out of regular steel sheet metal. It has a rust finish to it, which made it look brown."
In 1992, Elwanger died at the age of 47. Sherry Bowman, Elwanger's daughter, said that her father loved staying busy, referring to him as an artistic "jack-of-all-trades" who was a musician, painter and writer.
"I've never seen anybody work as hard as him in my entire life," Bowman said. "He was always doing something. He was very proud of 'The Lady.' He was proud of all of his artwork."
Bowman said she has been happy with the attention garnered by "The Lady" in recent weeks.
"I never felt like he got the recognition for his artwork and the talent he had," Bowman said. "He deserves credit. I never dreamed that 'The Lady' would be mentioned on the internet or people would want to see it. It makes me well up with joy."
For over 30 years, Bowman has driven past the statue almost every day on her way to work. She said she would be overjoyed to see the streak end by having the statue moved.
"When he was still alive, there was talk of having ('The Lady') moved to the riverfront back then," Bowman said. "Dad wanted it moved to where it could be seen more. Nobody ever followed through. It's what he always wanted. It's what I've always wanted."
Eldridge said discussions about relocating the statue emerged when Montel Metals shut down.
"When they decided to close the business, they had supposedly talked to somebody about getting it moved somewhere downtown," Eldridge said. "That was around 1996. Apparently, they didn't come to an agreement. I guess it was all sold with the rest of the property over there."
With Jeffersonville taking on many redevelopment projects in recent years, Eldridge said he would like the city to consider utilizing the statue in some way.
"I think it'd be a great idea," Eldridge said. "A lot of people have mentioned putting it by the walking bridge. I'm sure they could move it."
Though Bowman has wanted the statue moved for decades, she said a recent family visit to the statue and a prediction made by her father give her hope that her dream might soon become a reality.
"We had our pictures taken by the statue in October, so it kind of feels like a sign to me that it's getting attention," Bowman said. "Dad said nobody's ever really famous for their artwork until they die, and I guess that's true."