By JENNIFER K. BAUER
Crawford’s sculpture of Schwarzenegger, titled “Arnold’s Classic,” is the official trophy for an annual fitness competition sponsored by the celebrity. As such, it resides on mantles and other places of honor around the world.
A few years ago, Crawford sculpted a larger-than-life version of the pose that was sent to Thal, Austria, where it stands in front of Schwarzenegger’s childhood home turned museum. Schwarzenegger came to what the star called Crawford’s “little village” of Lewiston in 2011 to inspect the work.
“Crawford has been known in the physique world as a Rodin,” Schwarzenegger told a crowd of local media and others that Crawford mustered for the then-California governor’s brief stop in Lewiston. He cited the artist’s passion and accurate proportions when it comes to veins, muscle separation and head position.
“Everything is very dramatic,” Schwarzenegger said.
A smaller version of “Arnold’s Classic” and many other examples of Crawford’s talent are on display through Sept. 3 at the Third Street Gallery in Moscow City Hall, where he will discuss his work at a free 9:30 a.m. talk next Thursday.
While Crawford has lived in Lewiston since the 1960s, he rarely shows his work in the region. Bronze sculptures on display in Moscow are from his Western art period. They include a stampede of buffalo and American Indian leaders made famous in the Battle of Little Big Horn. Crawford’s favorite is the Lakota Rain-in-the-Face. The works were created in the 1970s when Crawford, then a roofing contractor, began sculpting seriously. The 81-year-old, self-taught artist learned the tools of the trade in California’s public schools.
“I couldn’t stop myself. It was all I wanted to do,” Crawford said.
“I did sculptures in high school that I never got back. I think (my teacher) was investing in me,” he said with a laugh. “They gave me clay; they gave me paper and pencil. I have a short attention span.
It’s a wonder I learned anything. I did what I liked to do, and they were glad enough to let me do it.”
Crawford had a chance to attend the Art Institute of California at Los Angeles, but he chose to get married and support a family instead. In the 1970s, an interest in body building led him to write a letter to former Mr. Universe Joe Weider, who ended up commissioning a heroic-sized bust from him. Crawford went on to do work for Joe Gold of Gold’s Gyms and Schwarzenegger, a world-famous body builder about to headline in the movie “Conan the Barbarian.”
Schwarzenegger continued to commission Crawford over the years. The artist visited him on movie sets, his home in Sun Valley and at his office as governor.
“He asked me when he was governor to do a major piece, but he doesn’t make his decisions really fast. So far nothing has come of it,” said Crawford, who continues to sculpt and has “a hundred ideas at any time, maybe more.”
if you go
What: Coffee talk with sculptor Ralph Crawford
When: 9:30 to 11 a.m. July 16
Where: Third Street Gallery, Moscow City Hall
Of Note: Crawford’s sculptures are on display at the gallery through Sept. 3.