- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Former Detroit Lions tight end Charlie Sanders died recently at the age of 68 after a battle with cancer, but his bronze bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, will forever serve as a reminder of Sanders’ greatness.

That bust - pictured next to Sanders in newspapers across the country after his death - is the work of Granger artist Tuck Langland, an Indiana University South Bend professor emeritus of sculpture whose work appears in public places locally and internationally.

Every one of the 306 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame has a bronze bust housed in Canton. In addition to creating the Sanders bust in 2007, Langland has sculpted Hall of Fame busts for linebacker Harry Carson of the New York Giants in 2006 and the late football pioneer Fritz Pollard in 2005.

Blair Buswell, the lead sculptor of the Hall of Fame busts, called Langland in 2005 and asked him to help with some of the busts.

“I’ve known Tuck for a long time. He has done some great sculptures,” Buswell said in a phone interview. “I thought it’d be great to have him try and do a bust for the hall, so he did it for a few years.”

Langland spoke of the challenges sculpting the busts presented for him.

“Getting a likeness in a piece of clay is not easy. I had a lot of pictures,” Langland said. “The big problem is that the pictures you get are from when they are young and now they’re not. So what do you do? Do you (sculpt) an old man or a young player? That’s awfully tricky. You want to somehow sneak in a feeling of it’s sort of both.”

Langland said he began working on the Hall of Fame busts based on photos of the players, but said it was also very helpful to meet Sanders and Carson in person, fondly recalling time he spent with both players. In 2006, Carson and his then-fiancé visited Langland’s studio in Granger for the day. The following year, Langland traveled to Detroit to see Sanders and his family.

“With Harry Carson, I asked Harry, ‘How are your knees?’ He said ‘My knees are good. Those of the guys I tackled aren’t so good.’

“So when I met Charlie Sanders, I asked, ‘Did Harry Carson ever tackle you?’ And he said ‘Oh yes, Harry tackled me plenty.’ And I said, ‘How are your knees?’ And he said, ‘I’m getting them both replaced,’” Langland recalled.

Langland’s works are numerous, including statues at Indiana University in Bloomington of famed World War II journalist Ernie Pyle and former IU president Herman B Wells. His sculptures can be found in museums, collections and public plazas across the U.S. and Europe, and his backyard and studio are full of his works as well.

The sculptor speaks about all his sculptures with great enthusiasm and pride. For him, each tells a different story. Transforming each sculpture from clay to bronze involves the same, complex process, however, as Langland described:

“I make the sculpture out of clay then make a mold out of rubber. Melted wax is poured into it then out again a few times to build up a nice layer. When this cools and comes out it is an exact replica of the clay, only in wax, and hollow. After attaching a few channels for wax to flow out and bronze to flow in, it is coated with a plaster and sand mixture, then buried in a larger cylinder of plaster and sand.

“The whole thing is placed in a furnace at 1000 degrees Fahrenheit for 48 hours, burning out all the wax and leaving a void shaped just like the sculpture, but with a mass of plaster and sand filling the hollow center. Then, molten bronze is poured in, and when cool it is broken free and finished with grinders, welding if necessary, and a final chemical coloration.”

Bronze isn’t the easiest material to work with, Langland said, but “it’s the nicest. You can get all sorts of rich color out of it. It will withstand the weather beautifully.”

Langland has been making sculptures for some 55 years. He started taking sculpting classes at the University of Minnesota and graduated with a master’s in fine arts. He taught in England for four years and then returned to the U.S. and taught for four years in Murray, Ky., before coming to IU South Bend in 1971. He built up the school’s sculpture department, helping to provide a studio and a foundry for the students.

In 2004, Langland was among a group of artists that founded Fire Arts Inc. in South Bend.

Langland is also a member of the National Academy of Art and a Fellow of the National Sculpture Society. He has written two books on sculpting, “Practical Sculpture” and “From Clay to Bronze.” He retired from teaching in 2003 but still remains busy working on various projects.

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Source; South Bend Tribune, http://bit.ly/1UUc0Q4

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com

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