Haddonfield’s residents want the Seward Johnson sculptures back, but the Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust’s goal was never to have static pieces in town.
There has been an outcry to get the “Crossing Paths” sculpture back, according to Stuart Harting, chair of the Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust. But, the piece featuring two seated bronze ladies exchanging pleasantries by sculptor Seward Johnson was never meant to be a permanent fixture on Kings Highway.
Since the two Seward Johnson pieces “Crossing Paths” and “Weekend Painter” left Haddonfield Friday, March 24, residents have contacted Harting to lament the sculptures’ departure, but the Crossing Paths piece costs approximately $150,000 to purchase. He said residents who want the sculpture back are encouraged to donate to HOST, because private donations are the only source that allows the nonprofit to keep running.
Harting said he has repeatedly encountered the same misconception about the town’s art. He said many people think the sculptures in town are a project of the borough, but HOST operates independently of the borough and survives entirely on donations.
Both “Crossing Paths” and “Weekend Painter” are on tour with other Seward Johnson pieces for the next two years. When the tour comes to an end, Harting said he is going to try to get one or both of the pieces back — at least for a short period of time — unless HOST is able to raise the funds to purchase them.
From the beginning, HOST’s goal has been to bring outdoor sculpture to Haddonfield, with new pieces coming to town on a rotating basis. Sculptures are loaned to HOST by artists for temporary display, and in turn, some sculptures, such as “Uno” on Mechanic Street, have been purchased by residents and donated to the borough.
In the meantime, Harting said new sculptures are coming to town — one of which is already on display on Kings Highway a few feet from where the bronze “Crossing Paths” ladies once resided. “Deflection” is a mixed metal, abstract piece on loan from sculptor Adam Garey.
John Giannotti, a sculptor and member of HOST’s Selection Advisory Committee, said “Deflection” is a playful piece that uses metal in an unexpected way. He said the piece’s unexpected shape works in juxtaposition to Haddonfield colonial architecture.
“That piece has that sense of joy, of playfulness,” Giannotti said. “I think in a setting like Haddonfield, that idea of playfulness is an important thing; it’s a way of making the town more real and more human.”
Harting said the reactions to the Garey’s piece have been mixed, but for the most part, the positive feedback has outnumbered the negative.
Giannotti said he sees residents speaking about Johnson’s and Garey’s pieces as evidence that HOST’s work has made an impression. He said in a colonial town with formal ideas about architecture, bringing unusual pieces to town is, in a way, controversial.
“The pieces are meant to go against tradition,” Giannotti said.
Choosing new pieces is a process that involves a lot of legwork, Harting said. The goal is to find a mix of pieces that are easily digested as well pieces that require residents to take the time to absorb, Giannotti said.
Both Harting and Giannotti speculated the reason the Johnson pieces became popular in town was because of their shock value. Giannotti said by casting the statues in realistic clothing, Johnson fools the eye into thinking these figures are really two women talking on a bench or a man painting.
Even despite knowing the pieces were inanimate, residents continued to be surprised by the sculptures, Harting said.
Through HOST’s work, art is becoming synonymous with Haddonfield, Harting said. Exemplary school systems, the town’s history and community events have comprised three legs on the chair that is Haddonfield, and outdoor art is quickly becoming the fourth.
“Art helps you make a town livable, walkable, alive and beautiful,” Harting said. “It beautifies a town just like trees tend to beautify a town. Sculpture and art does the same.”