By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - When Charles Barkley’s statue is unveiled Saturday outside Auburn Arena, one set of eyes will be watching the subject instead of the sculpture.
Artist Brian Hanlon says “it’s a cool moment” when the curtain comes down.
“You’re always nervous,” said Hanlon, who has created 300 public and private art pieces in 30 years. “I really care about what I do. I love my job. I’m grateful always at the moment for this job I’ve been blessed with, but it’s also cathartic in that, I feel like a process has been completed. And it’s a very difficult process.”
A process made easier by Barkley’s accessibility.
“He was one of the most polite I’ve met with as far as professional athletes,” Hanlon said. “He was very direct and very respectful. I respect this athlete and also this person, so I’m here to make sure everything goes well.”
The official sculptor for the Naismith Memorial Basketball of Fame, Hanlon is the go-to statue creator for sports figures. In Atlanta, he’s sculpted Bobby Cox, Dominique Wilkens and is finishing Evander Holyfield. He crafted Shaq at LSU.
“You have to research the subject,” Hanlon said. “Certainly the iconic image of Charles, he’s dunking the ball and there’s a defender hanging on him. His feet are at a 45-degree angle position.”
Adding a second figure would have complicated the process, Hanlon said, so he searched for another picture.
“I really found two images of him,” Hanlon said. “One as a Sixer, one as a Sun, and he’s pulling the same type of move.”
Substituting an Auburn jersey for the NBA versions, Hanlon went to work.
“I’d like over a year but I rarely get it,” he said. “To nurture an image like this, it just takes time. There are always interesting deadlines and you have to hit them, so you make it happen.”
When Barkley learned Auburn would honor him with a statue, he made one request. “I just hope it’s skinny,” Barkley said last October. “Don’t make it life-size.”
Hanlon honored Charles’ charge.
“I was very flattering to those words for him,” Hanlon said. “The pose lends itself to stretching out the anatomy. His arms are in the air and his legs are extended. As a result, all of the anatomy is stretched out so it’s not a pose that shows too much flesh in one area. It is quite a flattering pose for that humorous part of him always talking about his weight.”
Hanlon’s handiwork will be unveiled Saturday shortly after 11 a.m., when Barkley arrives from Samford Lawn after serving as ESPN’s guest picker for College Gameday.
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer