Sunday, April 13, 2014

Seward Johnson in Key West

Hey, Chicagoans . . . remember Forever Marilyn, the 34,000 pound Seward Johnson sculpture that gave us Marilyn Monroe in a 26-foot-tall depiction of the memorable scene from The Seven Year Itch?

Forever Marilyn (JWB, 2011)

Remember that?

Remember all those crazy folks in front of 401 North Michigan Avenue, posing under Ms. Monroe’s nether regions, mouths open, hands against their cheeks, gaping in faux shock at that pair of undies with the six-foot waistband?

Well, the governor of New Jersey, despite all his recent troubles, has reason to celebrate this week as the sculpture now resides in Hamilton, New Jersey, just inland from Atlantic City.

Or maybe you remember a year or so before Marilyn came to Chicago, at the same location, God Bless America, another Seward Johnson 30,000 pounder that gave us a towering depiction of the same couple we can find down the road at the Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Wood’s American Gothic.

God Bless America (JWB, 2008)
Appropriately enough, God Bless America is now at the State Fairgrounds in Iowa . . . not that its most appropriate location is a provider of roasted corn on the cob and cheese fries, but rather because the house in the painting is modeled after one the painter saw in Iowa and the two subjects are his sister, Nan, and his dentist, Byron McKeeby, both Iowans.

Missing you, Miss Marilyn.  Missing you, too, American Gothic guys.

Until . . .

I found the mother lode of Seward Johnson sculpture surrounding the Custom House Museum in Key West, Florida.

In a New York Times interview Mr. Johnson has said, “I want my work to disappear into the landscape and then take a viewer by surprise.  After he gets over the shock of being fooled, it becomes an emotional discovery.  Then he owns the sculpture.  People often revisit their favorites.  They become friends.”  [New York Times, June 30, 2002]

You’re probably not going to be surprised by the pieces that we saw in Chicago.  They hardly disappeared into the landscape; you could have seen them from three blocks away.  But there is something that does give a little tingle of discovery about his smaller bronze works.  They may be what some folks label as kitsch, but on a lovely afternoon stroll following a couple Yuenglings, they are kind of fun to bump into.

Not quite as much fun as the Yuenglings, but worth a few minutes of wandering.

Here are a few new friends that I met . . .

Time for Fun (JWB, 2014)
Lunch Break (JWB, 2014)
Day Dream (JWB, 2014)
Monet Our Visiting Artist (JWB, 2014)

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