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Reagan Cast in Old Role for New Tribute at Library

Art: Bronze sculpture to be unveiled this week portrays the former president striding off after a horseback ride at his Santa Barbara ranch.


SIMI VALLEY — Ronald Reagan's days on his beloved Santa Barbara County ranch are being remembered in a larger-than-life bronze sculpture at the Reagan library.

The 7-foot-6-inch sculpture, titled "After the Ride," was installed Tuesday in the library's main courtyard and will be officially unveiled Thursday night, following a lecture by Gov. Pete Wilson. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan is scheduled to attend.

Sculptor Glenna Goodacre studied photographs, video and clothing from the library's collection to create the standing image of the former president in his early 70s. Meant to portray Reagan striding off after a horseback ride, the sculpture shows him in boots and denim jacket, with cowboy hat in hand and riding gloves in his back pocket.

"I wanted him to exude the confidence and the friendliness and the openness that I think are part of his personality," Goodacre said Tuesday from her studio in Santa Fe, N.M. "When I was going through the thousands of photographs, the ones where he was solemn and serious looked very stilted and posed."

When she began transferring Reagan's image to clay, Goodacre said she had her most difficulty making the president's smile look sincere.

"I must have done the mouth over a hundred times," she said. Goodacre, who is set to attend Thursday's unveiling, is best known for creating the Vietnam Women's Memorial, which was installed in 1993 on the National Mall in Washington.

The sculpture on display at the Reagan library is the second casting of "After the Ride." The first has been on display at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City since April. The sculpture was commissioned and the castings paid for by Ed Gaylord, an Oklahoma media company owner and longtime Reagan supporter.

Lynda Schuler, director of public affairs for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, said the sculpture represents a part of Reagan's life that served as a release from the pressures of politics. The Reagans bought Rancho del Cielo in the 1970s and kept the 680-acre property 29 miles north of Santa Barbara until selling it to a foundation for young conservatives last April.

"Anybody who lived through the '80s and the Reagan presidency knows how much he loved the ranch," she said. "He just thought it was the best therapy in the world to be out there and doing physical work and being able to think while he rode and cut the brush."

Schuler said Goodacre's sculpture shows the energy that Reagan drew from his ranch work at the Western White House.

"I just think its authenticity is what makes it so remarkable, the effort that she put into researching the work," Schuler said. "She watched video so that she captured his stride, the way that he actually walked. It's that attention to detail that allowed her to capture him so well."

Now 87 and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Reagan will not attend Thursday's presentation. But Schuler said the former president visits the Simi Valley-area museum from his Los Angeles home several times a year.

"The next time he is up, I'm sure he'll enjoy seeing it very much," she said.

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