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Arnold Friberg bust unveiled at UVU

OREM — World-renowned artist Arnold Friberg spent his life creating paintings that commemorate figures like George Washington, Captain Moroni and Queen Elizabeth II. Now, a fellow artist has created a work to commemorate him.

That work — a bronze bust of Friberg — was introduced at an unveiling ceremony at Utah Valley University before a gathering of Friberg's family and friends and several Utah leaders on Thursday, just months after the artist's death.

"It feels like a wonderful, positive moment of success to pay tribute to a man who imminently deserved it," UVU president Matthew Holland told the gathering that included Gov. Gary Herbert and LDS apostle Robert D. Hales.

Unveiled by a group that included Herbert, Hales, Holland, renowned sculptor Edward Fraughton and Friberg's widow, Heidi, the bust depicts Friberg holding a single, long paintbrush and is larger than life. But those who knew Friberg best said the man who was commissioned to paint epic scenes from the Book of Mormon, famous college football games and members of Great Britain's royal family liked to keep a low profile.

"Arnold didn't want to be self-aggrandizing," said Fraughton, who created the bust. "He always said, 'It's not about me; it's about the art.'"

But that didn't stop Friberg's family, friends and admirers from urging the artist to allow his image to be portrayed in a work of art. He finally agreed to let Fraughton — his longtime friend — sculpt the bust.

"I try to put all the love and personality and feelings that I have about a piece that I'm creating into the work," Fraughton said. "But never at any time have I had the opportunity to put more love into a piece of work than I did this piece."

The bust was completed months ago and was slated to be unveiled in June. Just days before the ceremony Friberg was injured in a fall and the ceremony was postponed. Not long after, on July 1, Friberg passed away at the age of 96. The bust was displayed during his funeral services.

"We've lost an amazing man who had amazing talent," Herbert said. "Art continues on, and we can always reflect and remember."

Herbert himself has a large print of Friberg's painting, "George Washington's Prayer at Valley Forge," hanging in his office at the State Capitol building.

"It's an inspiration to me," he said. "It makes me reflect upon my forefathers, what they've done, what they went through (and) the challenges they faced."

Hales thanked Fraughton for sculpting the bronze bust. "To put Arnold in our presence just touches my heart," he said.

With their paintings and sculptures, both the statue's subject and its creator have been humble, talented artists who have shared their gifts with others, he said.

"Both Arnold and Ed are visionary men," Hales said. "They, in each of their talents, bring to life their subjects for us so we can enjoy them."

e-mail: jritter@desnews.com