I’m in a reading slump. I have great books at home staring at me, waiting for me to be in the mood for them and so far, nothing – for weeks now. I’ve been marathoning my way through procedurals on various streaming services instead. But, a work project meant that I *had* to read a book so I’m hoping that getting it done and reviewed will help get me out of this slump.
My organization is hosting 10 works by sculptor Seward Johnson this summer/fall at one of our arboretums and I volunteered to write the audio tour script. Which meant that I needed to get familiar with the artist and his work. Enter into my life Seward Johnson: A Life in Public Art published in 2014. It is a retrospective of Johnson’s art career of the previous 45 years (he would continue working until his death in 2020). What I needed was a comprehensive examination of the artist and this book is exactly that.
What I enjoyed most about A Life in Public Art (beyond the literal hundreds of images) is that it breaks Johnson’s career down into its several phases and then the text is based on extensive interviews between the authors with additional interstitials serving as broad introductions to each series of works and then reflecting on them and their place within the larger art world and in relation to Johnson’s audience. While Seward Johnson’s sculptures may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I respect the why of his work. He wanted to capture the mundane to celebrate it. He focused on public art because he wanted to draw people into shared spaces like parks. His art is meant to be playful, people are encouraged to interact with them, touch them even. He also is a bit cheeky, hiding humorous details in most of his pieces.
My tour script is out with staff being reviewed and I was able to pull lots of information directly from the artist to share with visitors because of this book so it served its purpose well in that regard. We’ll see if it helps jumpstart my reading.