By human reckoning, she is a new addition to the landscape, having been conceived only a year ago and completed this month. But the goddess in sparkling blue robes who smiles down on Basin Springs Park is older than the rocks from which the springs flow.
Her given name is Aza, but her identity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
"Everyone has a different take on who she is," Bruce Anderson said, "but they all see something in her."
Anderson, a mosaic artist, is the creator of Aza, who locals have dubbed the Goddess of Basin Springs. Watching the statue in progress, Catholic visitors have said she is Mary, Star of the Sea; others identify her as Green Tara, the Hindu earth mother goddess, tara being Sanskrit for 'star'. Anderson will officially introduce Aza to the community at a lighting ceremony Nov. 2, but he doesn't care what people call her.
"She's not of one spiritual school," he said. "She has elements of all of them."
Anderson was commissioned to do the statue last fall by Dan and Belinda Harriman, who live in the green house overlooking Basin Springs Park. They asked Anderson to sculpt a celestial goddess, but left it open. Anderson built the armature and concrete body in his Reeds Spring, Mo., studio. Last November, he brought the 900-pound statue to Eureka Springs and installed it at the site, at the top of steep steps leading up from the park.
"We had to drag her on a sled through the yard back here," he said, indicating the wooded property on the hill. "She was up here all winter without her head."
At some point, sculptors say, a figure takes on a life of its own and starts 'talking' to its creator. Anderson said that something like that happened a couple of times when he was working on the head in his studio last winter.
"She told me who she was, what she looked like," he said.
The name he chose, Aza, is an acronym of Adora Zerlina Astra, and means 'Beloved One Created of the Stars.' Her robe's swirling mosaic pattern was inspired by Hubble Telescope photographs of deep space, where stars are created. Anderson cut every piece of glass tile by hand and set it in place, a foot-square section taking three to four hours, either on a scaffold reaching up, or leaning over to do the train. The silver crown is her aura, Anderson said, and resembles that of Stella Maris, the Egyptian goddess who symbolizes rebirth and motherhood. The robe widens at the knee and covers her feet.
"I've had people come and think she is a mermaid," Anderson said. "That's okay because she is from the sea of stars."
Anderson, who is originally from Tahlequah, Okla., said Aza is the largest statue he has ever created, he said, and his first goddess. He drew from all cultures for her features, and modeled her figure after four loving, caring women in his life, including his spouse, artist Jeanette Bair. But that didn't prevent a little jealously from arising on Bair's part when Anderson was engrossed in the project.
"She'd say, 'You're spending entirely too much time with that woman,'" Anderson said.
Last week, the sculptor was in Eureka Springs to finish up grout work and add dimensions to the bluish-greenskin tones on the face and back before putting on a protective glaze. Anderson said he didn't start out with a preconceived idea of what Aza would look like. The goddess' expression changed slightly after being installed overlooking the park, he said, as if adjusting to her new locale.
"She became more of who she was supposed to be," he said.
The lighting ceremony will begin at dusk on Nov. 2 at the statue, which is accessible by steps in front of the Turpentine Creek office on the left side of Basin Springs Park.
Bruce Anderson takes commissions for mosaic tile, glass work, woodwork and statuary. For more information call the New Coast Art Academy and Gallery, Reeds Spring, Mo., 417-272-8386.