Part of the pride: Sculptor donates gold-leaf lioness to LHS

Part of the pride: Sculptor donates gold-leaf lioness to LHS
Posted on 10/31/2017

Craig Langager has spent his life as a sculptor. His work resides in some special locations: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Denver Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum and, well, Lynden High School.

Having made a living as a professional sculptor for the past 45 years, with his work appearing in most major museums around the country, Langager, 72, has never been beyond learning new styles. So recently, after spending 30 years living on the north shore of Lake Whatcom in Bellingham until moving to Lynden a couple of years ago, he did a small leopard sculpture, his first foray into gold leaf.

“I enjoyed it because it was a learning process,” says the sculptor who specializes in animals. During that learning process this past spring, Langager says he was touched by the passing of two Lynden coaching legends in the same week and decided to turn his attention to an African lioness. 

“I thought maybe the girls’ sports programs would like a lioness instead of having to look at a male lion the whole time,” he says. “It worked out great.”

The 3-foot-tall sculpture, which Langager created a special mounting system for, now resides in the Lynden High School cafeteria, high above the crowds in the southeast. Carved out of a dense urethane material with a metal armature, the lioness has about 100 5-inch by 5-inch gold leaf sheets on it. He worked in patina—when you darken or shadow metal—to augment the muscular structure of the lioness.

“She was a big girl,” he says. “And the females do all the work in the pride and with ‘Lynden Pride’ I thought a lioness was perfect.”

Mike McKee, LHS athletic and activities director, says any time someone takes the time out to put in the work that Langager did to create “such a beautiful thing and a piece of art that represents our school and our mascot it way above and beyond.”

“We couldn’t be more pleased,” McKee says. “It is quite spectacular and hopefully people get a chance to come in and see it. It is quite awesome.”

Langager says he always works with life-sized animals, whether zebras, crocodiles or the LHS lioness. But working with gold leaf was a tricky procedure, a craft that dates all the way back to Egyptian art. “It takes a while and is very fragile,” he says. “It is expensive, so you don’t want to waste it.”

For Lynden, Langager hopes the lioness represents unity. “If that works for them, in terms of having the pride to look at it and be a symbol for the school to build unity,” he says, “I think it is important.”