Conversation Piece: “Lunchbreak” by Seward Johnson
Take a seat next to this sculpture in Churchill Square
July 4, 2017
photography by Michael Kuby
If you’ve been to Churchill Square, you may have been fooled by Seward Johnson’s “Lunchbreak.“ The statue of a man taking, well, his lunch break isn’t set on a pedestal. No, the figure is sitting on a park bench – and, even though he’s as silver as a certain comic-book surfer, he can fool you into thinking that he’s a real guy taking five.
The piece has been downtown since 1983, and was sculpted and forged by famed American artist Seward Johnson. Johnson has a penchant for making sculptures of everyday people doing everyday things on park benches. Do a search for “Lunchbreak” and you will find other versions of this piece in Key West, Florida and Israel.
In San Francisco, you’ll find a Johnson sculpture of a woman on a park bench, reading a book. In Grapevine, Texas, you’ll find “Sidewalk Judge,” where a senior sits on a bench, leaning on a cane. In Trenton, New Jersey, there’s a sculpture of a man in a business suit passed out on a bench with a newspaper covering his face.
In that passed-out-on-a-bench statue, called “Between Appointments,” the newspaper in question features a story about Johnson’s late father, who had disowned his family after marrying his young maid. The kids contested their father’s will, worth close to $400 million USD. The children, including the sculptor, claimed the will was rewritten when their father was not of sound mind.
Johnson may be a common name, but the Johnson family in question here is the one featured on Band-Aids, baby shampoo and Tylenol. That’s right – Seward Johnson is an heir to the Johnson & Johnson empire.
The legal battle was settled before a judge could rule; the kids shared $40 million while the maid got the rest – but it was still massive tabloid fodder.
Make Sure to Notice
That the sitting figure has a cigar in hand. Hey, this was made in 1983, and the attitudes towards smoking in public were way different then than they are today. You know, nothing says the “common man” like puffing on a Cohiba in a park.
Art Gallery of Alberta
FREE TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY evenings
In 2017, it’s free for youth under 18 and students at any post-secondary institution to visit the AGA. AGA is also free for everyone to visit on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
2 Sir Winston Churchill Square, 780-422-6223, youraga.ca
Through July 29
In “Monument: Coding a Woodcut,” print artists Beth Howe and Clive McCarthy fuse photography, woodcutting and coding.
10123 121 St., 780-423-1492, snapartists.com
This article appears in the July 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.