Celebrating the Familiar

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SEWARD JOHNSON HAS BEEN COMMITTED TO PUBLIC ART OVER HIS ENTIRE CAREER AS A SCULPTOR. One of the primary concerns as an artist surfaced early on as he sought ways with his sculptures to celebrate what he refers to as “the beautiful moments of ordinary life”. Johnson’s sculptures explore these moments in ways that are familiar, personal, and distinctly human. In contrast to the towering structures of modern cities, the artist’s bronzes are human- scaled and portrayed in a vast array of activities and situations ranging from a female jogger (Shaping Up, 1987) to a man snoozing in a big stuffed chair (After Lunch, 2000). Over time, Johnson became disturbed by the predominance of crime and drugs in public parks and other open spaces in the 1970s. Looking to inspire people to return to these spaces and to reclaim them, he focused on creating sculpture installations that would activate and encourage public interaction in these sometimes frightening spaces. “I was concerned then that people were going to resign themselves to the crime and the criminals around them and dismiss all the emotional and spiritual sustenance and pleasure that nature can provide to help us deal with life’s inevitable struggles.”*

This series firmly established Johnson’s reputation in public art as a sculptor of exquisite craft and uncanny realism.