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L.A. artist honored at U.S. Capitol

May 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Los Angeles artist observed a milestone a few weeks ago, when her sculpture of 19th century abolitionist Sojourner Truth was unveiled at the U.S. Capitol. The story of the artist is equally remarkable, beginning with the fact that at age 81, Artis Lane says she still has a lot of work ahead of her.Some of her sculptures are so powerful you might expect them to come alive, but Artis Lane says her work is still evolving.

Her home is her studio, with works in progress and working pieces like the smaller bust she first created of the legendary Sojourner Truth. The large version of her sculpture was unveiled in the Capitol's new visitor center.

Lane followed that with a visit to her native Canada, in Ontario. She unveiled a bronze of her own relative, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, who also fought against slavery.

"When I did those two women I wanted to get back into my metaphysical pieces," said Lane "That's why I felt that I completed my last portrait and last heroine, humanly speaking."

Artis Lane is now creating new sculptures of the president and first lady, but Barack Obama is not her first brush with a president.

"I've gone from Reagan to Obama, and I saw God in both of them." said Lane.

Though Lane said she did not agree with all of President Reagan's politics she said she found something intangible.

"There is a strength in him that rises above politics," said Lane.

President Reagan approved lane's sculpture of him by signing it alongside her name.

Sculpting did not give Lane her start. The artist's early work was portraits. Her first was actor Cary Grant. Hillary Clinton's portrait was purchased by her husband when he was president. Now her scrapbooks are filled with stories of work from her lifelong career.

There are still new projects with a new focus and philosophy.

"Doing what you love keeps you young," said Lane. "You're sense of time just passes as you work. The more you work the younger you stay."

The inspiration for this new work is love.

"My art survives because it is spiritual," said Lane.

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