A look at this year's Sculpture in the Park display in St. Charles
As it has since 2006, the Sculpture in the Park program at Mount St. Mary Park in St. Charles lured us in for a closer look at this year's exhibit.
Little did we know we were looking at bronze sculptures from one of the nation's most famous artists, who happens to have an inspiring footnote related to one of the darkest days in our nation's history -- but more on that in a bit.
This St. Charles Park District Foundation program was initially established to let people see the work of artists from across the country -- and get more people also to realize how nice our local parks are for relaxation or exercise.
There have been some interesting sculptures on display over the years, and for the past five or so, I have mentioned which ones I consider favorites.
There was no doubt which one was going to be a favorite this year, especially when my wife, looking at this piece of art from a distance, asked, "What is that guy doing over there; taking a selfie?"
It turns out it wasn't a "guy" at all. It was a sculpture of a man wiping his brow while taking a break from mowing a lawn. It definitely looks like a real person from a distance.
Famous artist Seward Johnson, with studios in Hamilton, New Jersey, created this bronze sculpture and titled it "Heck, Time to go Fishing." Note that I use the word "Heck" in place of a word we probably don't need to print in the newspaper, but you get the idea -- this fellow is hot and would rather be fishing.
Another Johnson piece caught my attention this year as well, one called "Los Mariachis" of two mariachi singers doing their thing along the small balcony in the park overlooking the Fox River. Johnson and his wife were known to be fond of mariachi music.
In reaching out to speak to Johnson, it was sad to see on his website that he had passed away at the age of 89 in March of 2020.
Anna Healy, an associate curator for The Seward Johnson Atelier, sent a note saying Johnson had worked as a sculptor for more than 50 years, with his work on display across the globe.
He won the 2019 ISC Lifetime Achievement Award for sculptors, earning him the title in media circles of "America's most popular sculptor," Healy added.
She reminded me that his sculpture of Monet painting at his easel won the St. Charles award for "Best in Show" for the 2019 Sculpture in the Park program.
But here's what folks in New York remember about Johnson -- and something we should all know when admiring his work in our parks.
In his obituary, The New York Times noted his sculpture called "Double Check" survived the World Trade Center's destruction on Sept. 11, 2001.
"Double Check" is a sculpture of a businessman with a briefcase open, looking through his materials. It was created in 1982; otherwise, it would have shown this fellow checking his phone.
It literally sat amid the rubble and dust after the attack, but it's been cleaned up and remains on display in the World Trade Center memorial plaza in Lower Manhattan.
It makes it all the more amazing that he left us some great artwork to marvel at locally, the type that always makes a walk through Mount St. Mary Park an enjoyable time during the Sculpture in the Park season.
You can check out this year's display through late September, as artists start removing their work, sometimes to send to new owners, in October.
Pet lured to Klinkhamer
Of all the places we have taken our poodle Maddie for walks in the Tri-Cities and beyond, she has definitely come up with a few favorite spots.
For some time, it was Wheeler Park in Geneva. Then she got kind of bored with that, though we still stop there often.
She doesn't have to go to a park or forest preserve. She likes urban settings just as much and has an unusual penchant for wanting to walk on any kind of ramp she encounters.
I suppose she's smart enough to see that she is moving upward, or downward, without navigating steps -- the very reason ramps exist.
In what might be one of the strangest interactions between a dog and its owners, she has consistently tugged us in the direction of one favorite place -- and it's an odd one -- when we are in downtown St. Charles.
She will never pass up the opportunity to walk through the Susan L. Klinkhamer Parking Deck in St. Charles. Without fail, as we walk along First Street or the Fox River, she makes her move toward that parking area created in 2016 to honor the city's first female mayor.
If we try to walk past the entrance, she'll stop cold and stare at us. So we oblige and walk through the parking area.
I'm thinking she views it as a big ramp. Or she likes the sounds and smells in that parking lot, which is close to a few restaurants.
Regardless, Sue should know she has some fans in this family, to begin with, but now has a big one who can't get enough of the parking deck.
McNally's patio upgrade
There was nothing wrong with the furniture and setup McNally's Irish Pub in St. Charles had for its back patio area in the First Street Plaza.
But the new chairs and tables there now are a nice upgrade and complement the rest of the plaza area, which is increasingly becoming a popular hangout for city residents.
And that's what the planners of this decadeslong plaza and First Street rebuild project had in mind when it was first drawn up on paper.
Moving to 'Merchant' spot
After decades of business at 328 S. Third St. in Geneva, The Paper Merchant closed its doors more than a month ago.
But that spot won't be empty for long. After 12 years as an online company called Twoinspireyou, owner Tonya Bice is opening her first physical retail location in a portion of that building under the name "Geneva Wreath Company."
Targeting an opening in the fall, the store sells handmade artificial wreaths and front-door decorations.
Get to see Mom
After having to skip the trip last year because of the pandemic shutting most everything down, I'll be off to see my mom for her 96th birthday next week.
The excursion to Albuquerque, New Mexico, had become an annual ritual for the past 16 years until COVID-19 halted the process last year. Even though it will be past Mother's Day, I'm glad to get back out there and see that she has once again defied the odds to be around for No. 96.
She's most definitely getting slower. She can't hear or see as well, of course, but her mind is sharp.
That's been fueled for the past four years by her disdain for our previous president and his inner circle. I could always tell she had her wits about her when the topic of politics came up. I could hit the right trigger points by saying something as simple as, "Can you believe that guy?" And she'd be off and running.
Mostly, there is gratitude that the vaccination is allowing me to get in this visit. When parents from the World War II-era get into the land of the 90s, one never knows how many birthday visits are left.