Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Art in Anaheim: Sculptor John Edward Svenson

"Child on a Dolphin", by John Edward Svenson (1970)
Near a busy sunlit intersection in Anaheim dominated by the sounds of traffic and occasional air-brake hiss of city busses, a young child is going for a joy ride with a trip of dolphins.  His arms outstretched like a rodeo bronc buster, the youth seems barely capable of keeping his seat, as the creatures slip over and below the waves of an imaginary sea.

The sculpture in 1970

John Edward Svenson's sculpture celebrating the joyful spirit of childhood has enhanced the southwest corner of Harbor Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue (one mile north of Disneyland) for over forty years.  The bronze cast was commissioned for Anaheim's Home Savings of America branch in 1970, to accompany Millard Sheets' brilliant tile mosaic depicting the early years of Anaheim history.  Through his association with the Sheets Studio from the 1950s through the early 1970s, Svenson produced more than twenty sculptures for Home Savings and the Ahmanson Corporation all over Southern California.

Plaster presentation model, 10" high.

1970, the original full-scale plaster pattern in Svenson's Studio.

Chase Bank now owns the building and the artwork, and sadly the reflecting fountain has become an unkempt planter with the addition of a scraggly bougainvillea and a large rock resting on the fountain's original nozzles.   Someone (probably well intentioned) placed plastic pots of flowers into the basin at some point, but the plants have long since died and dried up, and the pots have become just more litter among the trash tossed in by people passing by.  There is no apparent signature or credit given to the artist, who still lives and works today from his studio in Upland. (Perhaps John Svenson's name is buried somewhere beneath all that landscaping bark?)

A beautiful new book "Exploring Form: The Life and Sculpture of John Edward Svenson" by the artist's son David is now available and is an enjoyable way to become re-acquainted with Svenson's amazing body of work.  Wouldn't it be fantastic if Chase Bank would maintain Svenson's sculpture with the care and respect that it deserves?

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