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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Seward Johnson Jr. went from soap and medicine to sculpture.

After being fired from the family business, famed healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson, he began his life in art.

Now, one of his sculptures towers over the Plaza of the Americas at UF.

Students were welcomed to Summer B by Johnson's 20-foot bronze sculpture of a dancing couple.

The statue is titled "Whispering Close," and it was inspired by the Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting, "Dance in the City."

The sculpture was last on display in Albany, N.Y., and it was recently moved to Gainesville.

It is the first of 17 statues being erected throughout campus and downtown Gainesville as a collaborative project between UF and the City of Gainesville. The exhibition will be called "Crossing Paths."

Andy Howard, a College of Fine Arts spokesman, said this is the first time there has been a co-presentation of these sculptures between a city and a campus.

"It is kind of exciting that we are setting an example," Howard said. "The main idea is to get the people from campus to explore the city and to get people from the city to explore the campus."

The pieces, on loan from the Sculpture Foundation, were taken from Johnson's collections, "Celebrating the Familiar" and "Beyond the Frame." The collections include works inspired by Impressionist paintings as well as others simulating people doing everyday activities.

So far, students have had mixed reactions to the Plaza of the Americas sculpture.

Dianet Preciado, a second-year industrial and systems engineering major, said she thought the statue added character to the plaza.

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"It is very unique," she said. "At first I didn't know what it was, so I had to come closer to look at it. It is definitely interesting and modern."

"It epitomizes randomness in epic proportions," said applied physiology and kinesiology major Carlos Guerrero.

Howard said the exhibition is part of Creative B, a summer program focusing on culture and creativity. The exhibition is an effort to encourage students to take creativity-focused courses throughout the Summer B term and will also bridge to National Arts and Humanities Month at UF in October.

The remaining works will be installed on July 7 and will be on display until Oct. 14.

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