A little more than two years ago,
Rick Lawrence, president of the Siciliano construction
company in Springfield, visited an art gallery in
Chicago and saw a small sculpture of Abraham Lincoln by
Colorado artist Mark Lundeen.
Lincoln sitting casually on a bench. He's a little
tired, but smiling. In his right hand, he's holding a
couple of pages from his second inaugural address.
At the time, Siciliano was in the middle of building
the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Lawrence began wondering if Lundeen's Lincoln could
complement Springfield's new cultural landmark.
"When I first saw (Lundeen's model), I just kept
thinking, to me, it's perfect for what's going on here
in Springfield. It's a comfortable sculpture to be in
some place with a lot of people present - a great
picture-taking venue, the old nose rub."
Earlier this month, Lawrence's thoughts were realized
when a life-sized version of Lundeen's piece, purchased
by Lawrence, was installed on a bench at the southwest
corner of Union Square Park. Lawrence donated the
artwork in honor of all the workers who contributed to
the library and museum complex's construction.
The bronze Lincoln is the second statue in the park.
In June, a nine-foot statue by Decatur artist John
McClary was unveiled at the park's southeast corner.
McClary's Lincoln is standing and bracing against the
wind. With one hand Lincoln holds his coat closed. The
other is extended in a welcoming gesture. An inscription
of a passage from Lincoln's first inaugural address
accompanies McLary's statue.
Lundeen deliberately sought to portray a relaxed, if
not exhausted, Lincoln.
"Most of the statues of Lincoln are standing up, real
formal," Lundeen said from his studio in Loveland, Colo.
"I thought it'd be nice to do him in a relaxed state,
which he wasn't in very often."
In Lundeen's sculpture, Lincoln's right arm is
hanging over the top of the bench and his left arm is
resting on the bench's left armrest. His right leg is
extended outward and his left leg is bent inward. His
top hat is turned upside down and rests on the bench to
his right. In it are three pieces of paper.
He's holding two other pages, and the top one
includes a handwritten inscription of the last few lines
of his second inaugural, beginning with "With malice
Lawrence refused to disclose what he paid for the
sculpture, referring to the price tag as "personal and
private." Lundeen said comparable sculptures he has
created usually sell for $36,000 to $45,000.
The Lincoln bench statue is actually one of about 12
replicas he's sold, some of which have been placed at
sites in California, Kansas and Chicago. He's also
produced a limited run of 100 smaller versions.
Lundeen is perhaps most known for his statue of the
mythical "Mighty Casey" baseball slugger, which stands
at several major league ballparks. Casey also was
featured in a recent episode of ABC's "Extreme Makeover:
Home Edition" television show, during which a Lundeen
Mighty Casey was donated to a Little League baseball
park that had been destroyed by Hurricane Wilma.
For Lawrence, his commissioned statue is somewhat
bittersweet. Late last year, Siciliano's construction
bill for the Lincoln library and museum was challenged
by the state, which decided to withhold about $3.5
million in payments. Eventually, the state blocked the
company from working on future state-funded jobs.
"I'm trying to keep it on a positive perspective,"
Lawrence said. "It's a sad thing - I'm working real hard
not to let it influence things that would be good for
the facility. I thought (the statue) was a neat idea -
to show appreciation for those who put in a whole lot of
"Bottom line, it's the way Lincoln would have wanted
it to be. Put problems aside, solve problems, go
Pete Sherman can be reached at 788-1539 or