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Hall of Fame sculptor Buswell among 'artists at work'

Published: Friday, March 4 2011 6:00 a.m. MST

Blair Buswell gained his first memories of sculpting while sitting next to his mother in church. If Buswell remained quiet and behaved, his mother allowed him to form yellow, green and blue clay into cowboys, Indians and race cars.

“So I made my toys as a little kid,” the prominent sculptor said.

In recent decades, the Pleasant Grove, Utah, resident has sculpted much larger figures for museums, monuments, private collections, college campuses, sports complexes and fine art galleries nationwide.

Buswell is one of several artists who will participate in an event called “Artists at Work: The Spirit of Art” at the LDS Church History Museum on Friday, March 4, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Besides Buswell, the evening will feature well-known artists Lee Bennion (painter), Mark Buehner (book illustrator), Eric Dowdle (painter), Suzanne Lancaster (gourd painter) and Richard Passey (leather tooler). These artists will demonstrate their talents by setting up works of art in progress and work on them while interacting with museum visitors, explaining their techniques and answering questions.

Buswell has participated in similar events before, just not in Utah. He plans to bring a piece, pictures, some portfolios and sculpt while answering questions.

“I probably won’t get a whole lot done,” Buswell said. “But as an artist, you are locked in a studio all day, not talking to anybody. It’s good to have the opportunity to show other people what you do and how you do it. It’s an honor to be chosen.”

The first question people like to ask Buswell is how bronze is applied to a completed clay sculpture.

“They want to know if I dip it in bronze when I am done. No, that would melt it. So I explain the process,” he said.

The second-most commonly asked question is how he got started in sculpting. According to his website, blairbuswell.com, he has always been fascinated with the human figure. He likes the challenge of capturing gesture, mood and expression.

A love of sports led him to sculpt athletes. Buswell studied at Ricks College and continued his education at BYU, where he also played on the football team. His hands have modeled sculptures of Jack Nicklaus, Oscar Robertson, Doak Walker and Paul “Bear” Bryant. He is also well known for his portraiture and since 1983 has sculpted more than 68 busts of the inductees of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The former Cougar was honored in 1990 as the Sport Artist of the Year by the United States Sports Academy — the first sculptor ever to be so honored. He also likes to sculpt Western figures.

The "Artists at Work" event is part of the Church History Museum’s “Evenings at the Museum” series. This event is free. It is recommended for those 12 years of age and older. The museum is located at 45 N. West Temple in Salt Lake City. For more information, call 801-240-4615.

e-mail: ttoone@desnews.com

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