Saturday, May 18, 2024

Local artist uses hoops team as next challenge

March 28, 2001
Mason artist Doug De Lind was inspired by MSU basketball games and created these wooden silhouettes. De Lind said the players were the type of subjects he loves to use for his art because of their outstretched fluid movements.

MASON - Doug De Lind had a pile of scrap wood in his backyard and a television tuned into an MSU men’s basketball game.

Then he had an idea.

Although he is a ceramics artist by trade, De Lind, a Mason resident, decided to create wooden statues of several Spartan basketball players to commemorate their hard work, success and all the excitement they’ve brought to fans.

Each statue stands almost seven feet tall, a close match to the heights of the human basketball players they are modeled after.

While the figures are not based on any individual player, De Lind carved some obvious traits and movements he saw in the game into each statue.

“There’s one character that’s just jumping way, way, way up,” he said, referring to the figure extending the highest. “It doesn’t matter who’s in the way. Jason Richardson is the one I always picture jumping higher than everyone else.”

As the leading scorer this season, sophomore guard Richardson is noted for his height when jumping and dunking.

Other statues show sophomore forward Al Anagonye’s muscular physique and senior forward Andre Hutson’s low post shooting skill.

“It was a little bit of fun to get some more recognizable figures,” De Lind said. “The other figures I’m working on are more totemic. They don’t have that movement that these wooden pieces do. That’s what kind of charms me about these.”

De Lind said he has a lot of respect for the players continuing their academic studies, and head coach Tom Izzo’s determination that his players work hard on and off the court.

In turn, the team appreciates De Lind’s handiwork, although many of them haven’t had an art class since elementary school.

“That’s pretty cool,” Richardson said. “I’m just honored by that. I think there’s a lot of art in basketball. It’s just like painting a picture.”

Izzo said basketball is a sport and entertainment for many, athlete or artist.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “If that makes somebody happy, that’s our job.”

Each basketball statue was shaped by De Lind’s hands, but only with the help of saber and circular saws, a chisel and a knife.

“They’re very noisy to make,” De Lind said. “I kind of had to cut it off at two a day. You should never overwork with power tools.”

While De Lind, an MSU alumnus with two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree, initially considered bronzing the statues, he has opted to leave them in their basic wooden state for now.

“You look at a wooden thing and it’s kind of rough,” he said. “I kind of like the commonness of it at one level. You’re looking at an idea more than an art form.”

But as the final games of the NCAA Tournament approach, De Lind has realized that he can’t just play with art and basketball forever.

“I have to seriously look at my responsibilities for art shows and fairs,” he said. “I’ll be assessing that next week rather than standing outside making noise and having fun.”

The fate of the statues lie with the fate of their human counterparts.

De Lind is entertaining the idea of giving the figures to some of the players or displaying them in front of Breslin Center Student Events Center.

“I may sneak them into the median for the parade if we win,” he said. “I’m going to try to get them out.

“I’m amazed when I watch basketball games now. Everybody else is focused on sports, I’d like to have a focus on artwork, but if I borrow a little focus, that’s okay.

Okemos resident Bill Breckenfeld, a life-long friend of De Lind’s, helped the art meet athletics by providing information about the players for his friend - and may help his friend show off the artwork later.

“I’ve been going to State games since I could walk and talk,” he said. “(De Lind) and I have been friends since we were two-years-old. He had started working these, so I knew what he was up to.

“It all depends on how the tournament ends up.”

Win or lose, sports memorabilia such as De Lind’s is often sought after.

Elaine Johnson, owner of Elaine’s Fine Arts and Sports Memorabilia in New York, said college sports memorabilia and art is constantly in high demand.

“It’s as popular as the Super Bowl,” she said. “It’s highly collectable. It’s easy to come by, but it depends on what team and what athlete.”

Although bronze statues of athletes are very common, Johnson said a wood piece could be even more collectible.

“Wood is very different,” she said. “If it’s a one of a kind, it can’t be recast. That in itself does add value to it. Carving something out of wood or sculpting is certainly a big job.”

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