I didn’t know who or what I was looking at when I glanced at this mammoth-sized sculpture next to the Lego tent on South Main street last weekend in Graham, North Carolina.
Probably a big blow up for a car dealership or retail chain. I squinted out the sun. Suddenly this 20-foot sculpture was very familiar. I recognized these dancers. Their expressions, closeness and clothing. It’s the famous couple dancing in Renoir’s Dance at Bougival.
Why is it staked out, looming over a Lego tent? Where did it come from? I looked around. I didn’t see any signs about it.
It’s just the two of them, dancing together even though they’re staked to the ground. No matter. They look content with each other. I actually wondered if it was a part of Nathan Sawaya’s Art of the Brick exhibit my son and I drove to see next door.
What say you, Nathan Sawaya, brick artist extraordinaire? Any idea why this dancing couple is next to your “Art of the Brick” exhibit?
Maybe not, but I want to know. So I found out. I was surprised to learn that Nathan and the mystery artist have something unique in common: They are interested in us. How we react to their art. Both leave calling card in towns and cities across America. I’ll explain in a second.
J. Seward Johnson Jr., grandson of Robert Wood Johnson, co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson, is the artist behind the Renoir inspiration. The sculpture is cast in bronze and “high quality” styrofoam. It was part of an exhibition in 2011 in Graham. Apparently, it never left.
I do not know why it is still here. Maybe it’s a gift to the Alamance County Arts Council.
Johnson Jr. is now an acclaimed artist and is well known for his life-size sculptures scattered throughout towns and cities throughout the United States, aside from his works inspired by French Impressionists.
Johnson’s sculptures often fool you for the real thing. That’s what makes them interesting and though-provoking.. A realistic moment in time captured forever.
Like this guy playing the guitar. I had to take a second look. His expression is warm and makes me recall the feeling I’d get when I’d pass by a musician playing for the world, tearing apart silence and releasing a moment of joy. Always makes me smile and feel a little more connected to the world.
Take a look at his website, sewardjohnson.com to see more of his creations. They are fun and thought-provoking.
Nathan Sawaya likes to leave a lego “Hugman” in places we wouldn’t think twice about: poles, bike tires, stairs. He quietly deposits his Hugmen around New York City and various cities during his travels. Hugman catches us off guard. We stop. We smile. We move on. Within a day or two, so does Hugman.
He calls it “The Adventures of Hugman”.
These artists inspire. I didn’t think a big French Impressionist sculpture of a famous dance couple and a Lego artist could have so much in common, but they do.
Look around. We all do.
- Musee Renoir and Musee National de l’Art Culinaire Auguste Escoffier (bonvoyageurs.com)
- Nathan Sawaya-The Art of the Brick (emmadmcvo.wordpress.com)
- LEGO Sculpture Art and other fun events at the Children’s Museum of Alamance County (kellywirt.wordpress.com)
- The Art of the Brick (andrawatkins.com)