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Noted sculptor's work 'deeply' influenced by Orangeburg roots ›

April 20, 2017

CHRISTOPHER HUFF T&D Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- Tom Player always knew he was an artist.

Even when he was a youngster growing up in Orangeburg, even after a 40-year career as an attorney, he knew what his true calling was.

“You’re always an artist,” he said. “You don’t just wake up one day, I don’t think, and say ‘You know what? I think I’ll be an artist.’”

“I think you have the ability. I had some ability. You have to work at it, of course, but I had the ability to draw and to paint,” Player said. “On a scale of accomplishment, my drawing’s pretty good, my painting is fair and my sculpture is better than both of those.”

These days, he is a sculptor who works with varied media, including stone, iron, acrylics and bronze. But he said that now, he has sort of settled in on reliefs. He was recently honored by the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art with its Phillip Shutze Award for Artisanship/Craftsmanship for his work in bronze relief.

But with examples of his work in different artistic media and subjects, he said, “You can’t pigeonhole...

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Philip Shutze Award for Artisanship and Craftsmanship ›

On the evening of March 4, 2017, in an affair reminiscent of a vintage beaux- arts ball, I was honored to receive this award given by the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. The subject of my award is bronze relief. I felt I was in the company of kindred spirits, for reliefs have been incorporated into architecture as far back as the ancient Romans and Greeks. Please visit "Relief Sculpture" for a detailed look at some of the work that drove this award.

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Stations of the Resurrection ›

As Joe Biden said, "This is a big deal." There may come a moment in your career when you have such a thought. The Dedication of the first of four Stations of the Resurrection was such a moment for me. It is shown above, as my friend, mentor and Rector, Michael Wright, blesses the bronze relief "Sea of Tiberias" . It sunk in at that moment that I was leaving something of myself in the most beautiful of settings. The opportunity to add to the luster of this 1846 Episcopal Cathedral in the heart of Charleston has its responsibilities. Not only do you hope to put forth your best work, but it must be correct by the Scriptures (I had some help there) and it must maintain the gravitas of the setting.

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St. Martin coming together. ›

Some of you have said to me, "I just don't know how you do it." I say the same thing about the foundry workers. I provide them a clay image of the piece, in this case two separate figures. They cover the figures with a rubber solution creating a mold into which wax is poured creating a thin, hollow image of the sculpture (think, chocolate bunny). The mold is heated causing the wax to pour out (thus, the "Lost Wax Process"). Hot bronze refills the void, and voila! bronze art is created - but, not so fast. The pieces then have to be welded together and cleaned up (that is what you are seeing here).

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American Artisits Professional League ›

Founded in the Salmagundi Club circa 1928, this iconic artist club located on lower 5th Avenue, New York, has hosted its Grand National Exhibition for many years, this year will be the 89th. I was honored to have won a Memorial Award in two years. Above, I am accepting the Leila Garden Sawyer Memorial Award during the 87th Grand National. Visiting New York during the early Christmas season is always exciting, but even more so when going for this purpose.

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The Beggar among beggars ›

A chance meeting with Rector Michael Wright of Grace Cathedral in Charleston set me on a curious path. The Rector wanted to amplify the compassion shown in the bronze church doors depicting the Good Samaritan. He chose the story of St. Martin and the Beggar. A powerful tale of a young Roman soldier who divides his heavy cloak with his sword in order to provide warmth for the homeless beggar. My search for a studio in Atlanta led me to the space and light of the Atlanta Homeless Shelter. For four months, I worked with two models with no water, no heat or cooling. Seemed just right. The clientele of the Shelter was always curious, yet accommodating. Because there was no water, I had to bring with me daily a five-gallon container because I was working in water-based clay. I looked like an exterminator, so my name to all was "Bug Man."

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Patron Saint of Armor ›

Several cavalry offices approached me to sculpt an image of St. George slaying the dragon. You see, St. George is the patron saint of the U. S. Armor branch. . Recently Armor moved to Ft. Benning, Georgia, and opened a gallery in the Infantry Museum. To my mind, it is the most vibrant and authentic of the military displays. My work, showing St. George slaying the dragon from horseback with a lance, is positioned in a handsome case just outside the entrance to the Gallery. Shown here is one of my benefactors, Duke Doubleday, together with another recipient of the Order of St. George.

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Hambidge Fellow ›

Hambidge Art Center is just off Betty Creek Road, which is just outside Dillard, Georgia. It started in 1934 and last year the wild fires came close to the facilities. . It sponsors a wonderful program for artists called the Fellows Program where you are provided an isolated studio and given space to use it. During my time, there I did portraits of several mountain people, including Hugh, shown here. The first time I saw Hugh, he was balancing atop a 15-foot ladder which was atop the cab of his truck. When he came down, I asked him to model for me. Reluctant at first, as are all mountain people , he soon agreed and I was able to quickly capture his craggy likeness in clay. Those were happy days filled with art and the early evenings filled with a thousand fireflies. Not since my youth in the low country of South Carolina had I seen such a glow.

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Six Ton Menace ›

More than five years and one retriever ago, I got the crazy idea of "doing a big stone piece." That led to the purchase of a beautiful six-ton piece of limestone. Now what? I designed a maquette of a mother fox and three cubs and started chiseling. Not long after, I called for help from by Highlands, North Carolina friend, Ben, and his Uncle Crawford. They are shown here with my constant companion, Buster. After a gazillion hours and a ton and a half of limestone removal, the foxes emerged. This spring they will travel up the mountain to take their place at the entrance to our little cabin.

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Florence Academy of Art ›

As I was winding down my legal career, I needed immersion into the art world. So, I went to the center of the Renaissance, Florence, Italy. The no-nonsense Florence Academy provided just the right atmosphere. From the consistently excellent instruction to flooding of the senses with great art, it was a kick start. That was the first year; the second summer, I rented a studio from Robert Bodem, head of the school, for the purpose of completing a two-figure life-size clay in 30 days. Robert said, "no way." Guido was my model, confidant and assistant. We worked almost straight through. We finished! And the piece, "Reports of her Day." was cast in Florence.

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Reports of Her Day at Furman University ›

When I first attended Furman in 1958, the trees were no higher than my chest. I heard the other day that these giant oaks are being systematically removed as they are at the end of their life. That's a scary thought! A couple of years ago, "Reports" found a home adjacent to the Duke Library on the Furman campus, on the path to the Student Center. It thrives there today. Each spring I stop by to wax the piece, assisted by my faithful golden retriever, Bear. I'm trying to interest my youngest son, Bailey, who went to Furman to take over this annual chore - so far, no luck.

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National Sculpture Society Annual Exhibit ›

The Society is the foremost gathering of traditional sculptors in the nation. Founded by the likes of Augustus St. Gardens in 1893, it celebrates its annual exhibit, lately at Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina. Fate led me to be invited to exhibit in the 77th Annual Show. I came upon rappers performing which spurred me to create, "The ATL", shown above.

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