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A Copley Newspaper
Serving Central Illinois
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Museum builder dedicates Lincoln statue to workers

Published Monday, July 24, 2006

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.

Lundeen portrays 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 toward none..."

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 hard work.

"Bottom line, it's the way Lincoln would have wanted it to be. Put problems aside, solve problems, go forward."

Pete Sherman can be reached at 788-1539 or pete.sherman@sj-r.com.

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