Monday, July 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Marilyn unveiled at N.J. art garden

Johanna Bianchi of Freehold, N.J., took a photo of herself Sunday with the larger-than-life Marilyn Monroe. (Mel Evans / AP)
Johanna Bianchi of Freehold, N.J., took a photo of herself Sunday with the larger-than-life Marilyn Monroe. (Mel Evans / AP)
BURLCO BUZZ A playful gust of wind kicked up during the suspenseful unveiling of a three-story Marilyn Monroe last week in New Jersey, as if it could compete with the breeze that famously lifted the "blonde bombshell's" skirt in The Seven Year Itch.

"Forever Marilyn," created by renowned New Jersey sculptor Seward Johnson, will tower over the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton Township until Sept. 21. Also on display are a lifetime of other Johnson works, including a 25-foot-tall interpretation of a snapshot that splendidly captured a sailor in Times Square passionately kissing a nurse as World War II officially ended.

But the big draw is Marilyn, a painted 17-ton figure that was forged of steel and aluminum in New Jersey four years ago for display in Palm Springs, Calif., in its hip downtown. She recently returned to the East Coast on flatbed trucks in awkward pieces - a head and torso, a piece of her wavy skirt, legs - as crowds gathered along the highways to gawk.

On Friday, she made her debut at the arts garden, located just outside Trenton and founded by Johnson. The sculptor and an adoring crowd watched the unveiling, which became an event in itself.

While a brisk wind whipped, Marilyn's shimmery white cover-up billowed and then slowly revealed her, starting with red toenails. Momentarily the cloth tangled with her hair before ripping free.

The crowd oohed. Known for creating hundreds of realistic and life-size sculptures, Johnson has said that he wanted "Forever Marilyn" and his other enormous sculptures to capture the iconic, oversize role that they played in pop culture and history.

The Marilyn piece is impressive. She captures an image frozen in time, from when a whipped-up skirt that reveals white undies was considered quite risqué. And now, visitors can stand under that wildly-flung skirt and be photographed.

I saw this Marilyn two years ago in Palm Springs, where she was all the rage, a campy decoration in a place brimming with Hollywood nostalgia. A dear friend lives there and says the town is heartsick over Marilyn's flirtation with another city.

In fact, the desert city that embraced her is weighing whether to purchase her and bring her back.

So hurry. As the cool days of autumn arrive, she again will be on her way.

yJan Hefler, www.inquirer.com/burlcobuzz

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