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Sculptor designs Lincoln statue

Sculptor Larry Anderson attended Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., where he edited the school newspaper and where a statue of Abraham Lincoln by Alonzo Victor Lewis is one of the most notable landmarks.

When his daughter was born, on Lincoln's birthday, there were five other Lincoln High graduates in the waiting room with him. And on Saturday, he was scheduled to attend the 45th anniversary of his Lincoln High graduation.

"Lincoln's been a part of my life for a long time," Anderson said in a telephone interview last week.

That's why it was a special pleasure for the Washington-based sculptor to be commissioned to create a life-sized bronze depiction of the Lincoln family that will one day grace the grounds of the Old Capitol Plaza in downtown Springfield.

"I'm thrilled and honored at the opportunity," he said.

The $210,000 sculpture will be the highlight of a series of 20 outdoor exhibits, part of a program titled "Here I Have Lived," that is designed to explain Lincoln's life during his nearly 25 years in Springfield. The $769,000 program is being funded by the city of Springfield, largely through a state grant.

Other exhibits will be display boards set on steel posts around downtown that will interpret sites important to Lincoln's life in Springfield, such as his law office and the barbershop where he spent time hanging out with friends.

Anderson is working on a life-sized clay and steel-rebar model of the sculpture, which shows Lincoln on his way from his law office to the Capitol to deliver a speech, pausing while his wife, Mary, adjusts his clothes. His son, Willie, is waving goodbye to his brother, Robert, who is leaving the family group on his way to school.

"It's a made-up moment in time ... that probably didn't happen," but which represents the Lincolns' day-to-day activities in the years before Lincoln ran for presidency, Anderson said.

"I'm trying to reflect the effect Springfield and Mary and his law practice had on him," Anderson said. "All of which worked toward polishing him for the task ahead. ... My effort is to reflect a sense of optimism, sort of a can-do attitude, rather than the looking down, reflective, carrying-the-weight-of-the-world (image of Lincoln) that was the effect of the (Civil) War."

Anderson said he did considerable research on Lincoln, reading books and studying photographs, in order to make the sculpture as accurate as possible. He said it's difficult getting the appearance just right, partly because some aspects of Lincoln - the back of his head and shape of his skull, for example - are not shown in any photo.

Getting the right look for the clothing Lincoln and his family would have worn also is difficult, Anderson said.

Anderson said he is only about half done with the life-sized clay model. When it is finished, it will be used in what's called the "lost wax" process to create a wax mold, which will then be used to make a ceramic mold to cast the parts of the figures in bronze. The parts will be assembled, detailed and polished to create the final figures.

The final sculpture will be assembled and installed in front of the Old State Capitol, probably in late spring of 2004, Anderson said. The sculpture will be installed in such a way that people will be able to touch and interact with it, and even pose for pictures with the Lincoln family, he said.

"The setting of the Old State Capitol is wonderful," Anderson said. "Most of my work is hands-on so people can be a part of it one-on-one. The site setting is perfect for that approach. It's an inviting sort of a piece."

Doug Pokorski can be reached at 788-1539 or doug.pokorski@sj-r.com.

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