About Utah: Utahn brings sports legends back to life

Published: Thursday, Oct. 25 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

He's also sculpted Mickey Mantle, Jack Nicklaus, Oscar Robertson, Bear Bryant, Tennessee football coach Robert Neyland and, most lately, Merlin Olson. Olson's statue stands at the entrance to Romney Stadium in Logan. Mantle's is in front of the ballpark in Oklahoma City. Nicklaus' is at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. Robertson's is at the University of Cincinnati basketball arena. Neyland's is at the University of Tennessee football stadium that bears his name. Bryant's is at the Paul W. Bryant Museum on the University of Alabama campus. You could make a road trip of the country just gazing at Blair Buswell sports sculptures.

He's not one-dimensional. He's sculpted people ranging from Charlton Heston to Norman Rockwell to LDS Church Presidents Harold B. Lee and Thomas S. Monson (their busts are in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City). And he's currently working on a 10-year project that when finished will be a full-size block-long wagon train in Omaha, Neb. (You can see his range of work at www.blairbuswell.com).

But it's sports where he began his professional sculpting life and it's sports where he still feels as comfortable as Wooden's Bruins running the fast break.

"I like doing players and coaches, I know that world well," he says. "I try to get beyond eyes and ears in the right place and get the essence of the person through their gestures, their mood, their expression. You can have a likeness, but it can still feel stiff."

He's spent the past year in Pleasant Grove bringing Wooden's essence to life. Today, accompanied by his wife, Julie, son Weston and daughters Savannah and Jocie, he's in Los Angeles to present the coach to the place he called home.

It's not the Wizard of Westwood in the flesh, but it is the next best thing.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday.

Email: benson@desnews.com

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