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Overland Park bringing city-wide display of Seward Johnson sculptures to town this spring

Roxie Hammill - January 8, 2020 7:20 am
“Captured” is among the works that will be put on display in the downtown Overland Park area.

The famous “blue potato chips” sculpture at 119th Street and Blue Valley Parkway will go on a brief hiatus next summer as Overland Park prepares for a temporary exhibit of 29 sculptures running from downtown to 119th Street.

The exhibit of realistically painted bronzes by Seward Johnson will run from June through August and will also include pieces at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Another of the sculptures set to be placed in the downtown Overland Park/Metcalf Avenue corridor.

The city council approved paperwork Monday for the exhibit, which has been in the works for a couple of years.

During the exhibit “Shim Sham Shimmy,” affectionately nicknamed the “blue potato chips” by residents, will be stored and a “monumental” piece by Johnson will stand in its place. The piece, based on a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, is called “Turn of the Century” and depicts a man and woman in period clothes dancing.

Arts enthusiasts are especially looking forward to the other, smaller pieces as well, said Vicki Lilly, executive director of the city’s Arts and Recreation Foundation. The Arboretum will have eight pieces from Johnson’s “Beyond the Frame” that are lifelike depictions of French impressionist paintings. Lilly said they will tie in with the arboretum’s Monet garden.

The downtown pieces will run south along Metcalf Avenue from 80th Street to College Boulevard. Those are from a group titled “Celebrating the Familiar” and are realistically painted works showing people in everyday life. Those sculptures can be touched by passers-by.

Johnson, from New Jersey is known for his realistic tromp l’oiel sculptures. According to his Wikipedia page, he is the grandson of Robert Wood Johnson, co-founder of Johnson & Johnson. He worked at that company until 1962, when he was fired by his uncle and pursued an art career.

The exhibit will be paid from three sources – Friends of the Overland Park Arts, Friends of the Arboretum and the city – each giving $50,000.

Fans of the blue potato chips should not despair, though. They’ll be back after the Seward Johnson exhibit has run its course.

Editor’s note: This story had been updated with correct information about the timing of the display. The story initially indicated that the sculptures would be on display May through November. They will be on display in Overland Park June through July.

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