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Sculptor freezes moment in history; preserves in bronze

5:10 PM, Feb 19, 2010   |    comments
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"I've done some pretty hot stuff," Dwight said with a smile, "but this to me is a lot bigger."

For more than 30 years, Dwight has worked on his craft. His work can be seen at the Smithsonian as well as in city halls and at monuments around the world. But, after the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009, local businessman Doug Morton came to Dwight with an idea for which Morton would provide the funding.

"He said 'Are you sitting down?' And I said 'What?' And he said 'Obama.'"

To Dwight, though, that wasn't a big enough challenge.

"I said 'if you're going to do a sculpture of Obama, it's got to be real. It can't just be him.' It's about an event that's going to be the highlight of the 21st century," Dwight said.

Dwight should know a few things about history. He is a part of it, as the first African American to be trained to become an astronaut.

To him, though, the biggest moment in history, thus far, happened at Obama's inauguration ceremony. A photo of the event including President Obama, the First Lady, Malia and Sasha Obama and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts provided Dwight with his inspiration.

"I get little butterflies when I look at this," he says while gazing at a poster-sized printout of President Obama taking his oath.

Dwight and his assistants began working on the project in September. Five months later, all five sculptures are complete. And the artist did not miss a detail: down to the embroidery on Michelle Obama's embellished gold coat.

"It's a bronze image of a real dress," he said. Dwight got a local seamstress to make a replica of the dress after trying, unsuccessfully, to get an original from the designer.

All of the figures were dressed in real clothing in order to cast life-like molds.

"I'm interested in the wrinkles (on the clothes)," he said.

He also got every wrinkle on the face of every person in the display. He even went so far as to match up the lines of sight between the president and Roberts.

"We bring the judge and stand him here. Then I stand out to make sure he (Obama) is looking at the judge," he said.

The artwork, which will eventually be available to the public for purchase in several smaller sizes, required precise measurements too.

"We've got this thing calculated so that his hand slides right over the Bible," Dwight said.

The first place that spectators will get to see the sculptures in their full detail is the Colorado History Museum.

The exhibit will open with a private reception on Friday evening and a public opening on Saturday, February 20th. Special family-themed events that day will last from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

During that time, Dwight will also be giving a lecture. The exhibit celebrates the achievements of African Americans from the times of slavery into the present day.

It will be at the history museum until February 28th and then go on a cross-country tour before being displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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