Answer Man

Here’s the story behind that crazy statue you see on the news

Q: During the opening of the KSDK-TV Channel 5 evening news, my family has been wondering what the statue/figure lying down with an arm pointing up is. We’re sure it’s something we should know but cannot figure it out.

Carol, of Belleville

A: Sounds as though you need to have your eyes opened to “The Awakening II,” because if you’ve never seen it in person, a day trip to Chesterfield, Mo., is long overdue, say most critics at internet travel websites.

Created by internationally noted artist John Seward Johnson, it is a 72-foot-long sculpture of a giant who apparently has just awakened to find himself in an earthly grave and now is struggling to get free. But instead of being cast as one massive piece, it consists of five parts — a left hand and right foot just starting to re-emerge; a bent left leg and knee that jut farther out of the ground; a bearded face with its mouth caught in a tortured scream; and that right arm which soars 17 feet into the air. It’s left to you to imagine the rest of the body that’s still trapped below ground.

Unveiled here on Oct. 10, 2009, it is actually a second casting of a statue Johnson created in 1980 for the 11th annual Sculpture Conference in Washington, D.C. Originally installed in East Potomac Park, The Awakening I eventually was sold for $750,000 to East Coast real estate magnate Milton Peterson. In 2008, he moved the entire work to its current location along a specially built beach on the Potomac River at his National Harbor development in Maryland. A year later, Chesterfield Arts, with $1 million from Sachs Properties, had the local copy installed and unveiled as the highlight of a traveling exhibition of Seward’s works. Not surprisingly, it is now one of the most photographed artworks in the area.

Seward’s life is as interesting as the piece that has grabbed your attention. He is a grandson of Robert Wood Johnson, co-founder of Johnson & Johnson, but Seward, now 87, reportedly was fired from the company by his Uncle Bob in 1962. After dabbling in paints for a few years, he turned to sculpting life-size statues, mostly of people engaged in everyday activities. A couple of his most notable are “Forever Marilyn,” a 26-foot-tall statue of Marilyn Monroe trying to hold down her skirt as she stands on a gusty subway grate, and “Unconditional Surrender,” a larger-than-life re-creation of a famous photograph of a couple kissing in Times Square on V-J Day to celebrate the end of World War II.

While Johnson has had statues installed around the world, some art critics have panned his work as too kitschy. A 2003 exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in which he re-created famous Impressionist paintings, was skewered by critics and other museum curators alike. But works like “The Awakening” in Chesterfield get mostly two thumbs up from the public on such websites as Trip Advisor and Roadside America. “Loved by adults and kids,” reviews say. “Kids can climb all over it. It is a lot of fun and a great spark to the imagination of young children that isn’t computer-based! Can picnic here, too.”

Outside of rush hour, it’s estimated to be a 40-mile, 60-minute trip from Belleville’s Public Square. Just take I-64 west to exit 19A. Then follow North Outer Road 40 and the Chesterfield Parkway West about a mile to the statue at 16150 Park Circle Drive just east of Central Park. To whet your curiosity, I highly recommend the seven-minute YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_G86GXCbAk.

Today’s trivia

What Ivy League college began as a school to educate Indians?

Answer to Sunday’s trivia: Officially, the northernmost land battle involving the Confederate Army during the Civil War occurred on July 26, 1863, when Union forces finally squelched a raid by Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan near Salineville in east central Ohio. However, on Oct. 19, 1864, a group of raiders apparently connected to the Confederate Secret Service swooped down from Canada to rob three banks in St. Albans, Vt., of $208,000. The group was caught (but freed) in Canada, which returned the $88,000 it recovered to the banks. As a consequence, the officially neutral Canadians turned against the Confederacy, and no more raids were staged. Technically, the northernmost battle may have taken place at sea across the Atlantic in the battle of Cherbourg, France, where the USS Kearsarge sank the CSS Alabama in a mano a mano encounter on June 19, 1864.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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