Eco­nomics Program Director Gary Wolfram was the model for the Abraham Lincoln statue on campus. Breana Noble | Col­legian

From his corner-office window in Lane Hall, Gary Wolfram, the eco­nomics program director, can look down into Kresge Plaza and see a similar figure to his own: Abraham Lincoln.

While sculpting the 16th pres­ident of the United States for Hillsdale College’s Liberty Walk, Pro­fessor of Art Anthony Fru­dakis used Wolfram as his model for the statue, which was ded­i­cated in 2009. Fru­dakis has a habit of bor­rowing bodies on campus as con­ve­nient models for such com­mis­sions.

“I thought it would be inter­esting to try it out,” Wolfram said. “How often do you get to model for some­thing?”

Fru­dakis said he looked for a model for Lincoln, choosing Wolfram for his height and “Lin­col­nesque lank­iness,” he said. His hands — which, besides Lincoln’s face, are the only parts not covered with clothing on the statue — were the focus, however, as Fru­dakis shaped the small-scale version of the 7-foot-tall statue.

“It really isn’t miniscule,” Fru­dakis said. “Hands are so expressive. We use our hands to talk all the time.”

Fru­dakis said he imagined Lincoln’s hands held behind his back as if he were holding a Bible. But he also said their position tells a story of the foun­dation of his pres­i­dency.

“Those hands sym­bol­i­cally rep­re­sented the binding of the union — holding the union together — a bond he lit­erally gave his life to uphold,” Fru­dakis said.

Wolfram said he visited Fru­dakis, who lives just more than a block from him, at his home studio. He didn’t have to do much, he said, but stand in Lincoln’s pose: his hands behind his back, head tilted slightly downward, and his right foot a bit forward.

But Fru­dakis, who said the com­mission gave him an excuse to read from Lincoln and about his char­acter, said Wolfram brought more than his physique to the project.

“Like Lincoln, he’s a good sto­ry­teller,” Fru­dakis said. “He rein­forced the spirit of Lincoln’s sense of humor and whit.”

It is common practice for sculptors to use models for their works, when the sculpture’s figure is not living. Fru­dakis also secured help from phi­losophy and religion department chairman Thomas Burke and Pro­fessor of History Emeritus John Willson while making Hillsdale’s George Wash­ington statue. He said he also had stu­dents model for Thomas Jef­ferson, which he sculpted during the same time as Lincoln.

“Working from life can keep the work fresh and give a freshness to the work,” Fru­dakis said.

Struc­turally and aes­thet­i­cally, basing a piece off a model can also offer solu­tions to artists, Fru­dakis said. Some­times nature may even have a better com­po­sition, he said.

“It can be better than I had antic­i­pated with more inter­esting design and with more beauty,” Fru­dakis said, adding, “with the exception of Gary.”

Finding models can be a chal­lenge, however. Some­times they are found in the oddest places.

Cal­i­fornia artist Bruce Wolfe was searching for a man approx­i­mately 6-feet, four-inches tall and 200 pounds to match the build of Fred­erick Dou­glass, who Wolfe is sculpting for the college and is expected to be unveiled at spring com­mencement. He found Joel Hart.

“We were at a soccer game of our grand­daughter, and his daughter was playing on the opposing team,” Wolfe said. “I saw him and asked him if he would pose for a Fred­erick Dou­glass sculpture. He said sure and came over whenever he could, always bringing cake and goodies. He is a great guy and fun to be around.”

In addition to the model, Wolfe also used photos of the escaped slave-turned-abo­li­tionist, who is believed to be the most-pho­tographed person from the 19th century. Wolfe is now fin­ishing the large clay sculpture to be cast for the final bronze piece.

He also sculpted Hillsdale’s Mar­garet Thatcher statue. She, however, was living at the time, making a model unnec­essary, he said. He said meeting her allowed him to get a sense of her per­son­ality and char­acter.

“She was a won­derful human being, I think,” Wolfe said. “She was strong and fem­inine. Some women have power, but yet, it’s in a gilded box; it’s in a velvet fist. She was that kind of person that had that quality. She knew exactly what she wanted to do. I think [in her statue] she looks assured, con­fident, at ease with herself.”

Wolfram said it was an honor to help with a project that memo­ri­alizes Lincoln, an accom­plished his­torical leader and thinker.

He added that Hillsdale is lucky to have several remarkable artists like Fru­dakis working for it.

Wolfram said he now enjoys looking out his window to see Lincoln, which he said he thinks is an incredible piece.

“But I didn’t check to see if I was in it,” Wolfram said.

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Breana Noble
Breana Noble is The Collegian's Editor-in-Chief. She is a born and raised Michigander and studies politics and journalism. This summer, Breana interned in New York City at TheStreet, a business and finance news website. She has previously worked for The Detroit News, The American Spectator, and Newsmax Media. She eventually hopes to pursue a career in investigative journalism. email: | twitter: @RightandNoble