The giants from southwest Oklahoma’s past stand tall in Gary Gardner’s mind — and thanks to his handiwork, they stand tall throughout our city and region.
From military leaders to characters from a long-gone Wild West, Gardner has sculpted a handful of what he calls “life-and-a-half-size” bronze statues (nine feet tall) that pay tribute to figures from local history.
“We forget where we came from,” said Gardner, who hopes his sculptures serve as a catalyst in reminding the community of those who blazed important trails.
After a 52-year career as a dentist in Lawton, Gardner took up a new pastime in his late fifties, creating bronze sculptures.
Though he’d only ever dabbled in painting (which he did not necessarily enjoy), a dentist friend encouraged Gardner to make the drive to Norman for a sculpting class.
One class was all it took to hook him.
“I thought, ‘Man, I love this,’” Gardner said. “I realized I’m more of a 3-D art kind of guy.”
One class was followed by more drives to Norman — and then to art schools in Colorado and Arizona, where he learned from professional sculptors.
Many of Gardner’s early creations were inspired by his love of learning about the lives of some of Oklahoma’s most beloved historic figures.
“For a long time, I was so active in dentistry, I didn’t read much other than medical books,” he said. “But when I retired, and as I’ve gotten older, my reading has changed to include more novels and books on history.”