The images here are a more abstract follow-up to the previous post, which focused on the the somewhat controversial “Unconditional Surrender” sculpture by Seward Johnson.
The warm toned image above shows the sailor’s almost feminine closed eye at the moment of the kiss frozen in time. His eye is framed by other elements from the work — elements that suggest some of the strangeness one feels standing beneath this out-of-scale couple, looking up at their embrace.
The abstract below was inspired in part by the splash of red paint that had been used to deface the sculpture in what was probably a social statement, and by the emotional triggers being pulled.
Public art on a grand scale often garners attention, both good and bad. The 25 foot tall “Unconditional Surrender” by Seward Johnson along the bayfront in downtown Sarasota is no exception. There has been plenty of controversy since it first arrived here in 2005, with some calling it tacky, inappropriate and out of place along beautiful Sarasota Bay.
Also known informally as “The Kiss,” the sculpture appears modeled after the iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph of a sailor returning home on V-J Day, kissing a nurse and nearly sweeping her off her feet. The artist claims a public domain photograph of the same couple was the actual reference for the sculpture.
In addition to criticisms of its artistic merit and debates about the proper attribution of sources, the sculpture has raised issues about the concept of unconditional surrender in war and in the woman’s surrender to the man. On the day these photographs were taken, the sculpture had been defaced with red paint running down the inside of the woman’s leg onto the ground at her feet.
Public art is often intended to decorate or beautify a public space, and many argue that this piece is garish and fails in that regard. However, if public art is also allowed to bring sensitive issues into a community’s awareness, perhaps there are ways this piece succeeds after all and is no more out of place than the structures, vehicles and ideas swirling around it.
We no longer trust beauty as a serious means of investigation. But it can be ... In fact, beauty can be incendiary; it can be subversive; it can make us cringe.
-- David Maisel, Photographer
"It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it." -- Anais Nin
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders of the universe, the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race.” -- Rachel Carson