Client: Century Walk Corporation
Location: Naperville, IL, United States
Completion date: 2018
Artwork budget: $125,000
David Alan Clark
Naperville wanted a sculpture of Lincoln from a time when he was a legislator and known for his sense of humor and laughter. So, we worked with them to create a Laughing Lincoln; slapping his knee and sharing a hearty laugh. He is life-sized (so at 6 foot, 4 inches – a giant in his time) and wears period-correct clothing, worn and patched, with hand-made buttons. Bronze sculpture on local limestone, cornerstone, bench.
The City of Naperville has a rich history of sculpture, many of which celebrate local lights, and this one is only the latest. (Lincoln teamed up with fellow-legislator Joseph Naper to make the town the county seat in exchange for making Springfield the state capitol.) The bench was made of foundation stones for an historic local barn, and was made to represent the foundation of the county seat - literally.
The town and I worked together on the design and historic accuracy of the figure - because we all knew that Lincoln buffs (and there are a LOT of them in Illinois) would kick up a fuss if we got anything wrong. Mary Lou Wehrli was a particular help in this, and she was motivated by the memory of her father, community booster Don Wehrli.
I was amazed to discover that there are no other sculptures of Lincoln during a happy time of his life. All of the existing ones are either haunted Lincoln during the Civil War, or solemn young Lincoln - far too dignified to fit with the oral histories I found recounting the hilarity he caused among his friends and in himself.