It's among the most iconic images in the history of cinema. A statue of boxer Rocky Balboa... arms raised in victory.
The character may be fiction, but the man behind the statue is very real, and grew up in Sioux City.
In an expansive space, in a Denver suburb, art imitates life. Early on, athletics caught the eye of the artist, Sioux City-native Tom Schomberg. "It was a great place to grow up," said Tom Schomberg, Artist. Early praise fueled his passion for art at Irving Elementary School. "I can still remember my second grade teacher, who complemented me on a drawing once," said Schomberg. And, at Sioux City Central High School. "That allowed me to say, 'hey, I'm a realist. I want to do what I'm doing that I know the best'," said Schomberg.
What Schomberg knew was sports. "All of those things combined together to fuel my interest in art," said Schomberg.
While showing some of his work at a gallery in Las Vegas, in 1981, Schomberg happened to meet actor Sylvester Stallone. "Sly Stallone bought a number of those pieces from that gallery," said Schomberg. But, it was a piece, which memorialized members of the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team that died in a 1980 plane crash, that gave Stallone inspiration. "At the time, Sly said, 'no, I'm not interested in that project, but come to LA, I want to talk to you about another project," said Schomberg.
That project was the statue of Stallone's iconic, underdog boxer, Rocky Balboa. The statue on display is the final design. But, Schomberg says, in the beginning, it looked very different. "When he saw the statue in the studio, he said, 'we gotta lighten him up'," Schomberg said. Sculpted as a heavyweight, the statue was about 30-pounds heavier than the trim, fit boxer Stallone would portray in "Rocky III", which would feature the piece. "It took a little removal of some wax and clay, but we finally got him down to what he liked," said Schomberg.
Stallone wanted one more thing. "He wanted to be the victor," said Schomberg. "And, for the sequence in "Rocky III", and it was pretty cut, and dry, that this is what we wants, and this is what we would like you to do." So, Schomberg made sure Rocky's arms would be raised, in celebration, for all time.
Right now, Schomberg is working on a series of 12 sculpted columns that, he says, represents the emotions felt on September 11th, 2001. Schomberg was teaching at a community college in the New York City area at the time. Schomberg wants the columns to serve as a memorial to those that were lost... and those that were left behind.