I (Heart) Public Art

The disappearance of the mural on the John Hancock Tower is bumming me out.

The first time I saw the vinyl “pasting,” I was driving and had a hard time keeping my eyes on the road. As weeks passed, the image became a welcome surprise every time I was driving east on the Mass Pike or walking on Mass Ave toward Back Bay.

The man on the wooden raft (to me it was indisputably a raft) endeared the Hancock Tower to me. I stopped thinking of it as “the plywood palace” where, while under construction, 133 panes of glass popped out and had to be replaced with plywood. When it finally opened, there were complaints of motion sickness on the top floors. Those problems were resolved long ago, although the building is still responsible for a terrible wind tunnel down on Clarendon Street, where I once saw a gust lift a toddler off her feet.

But now I see the Hancock tower as a stunning canvas, shimmering blue or grey in answer to the seasonal sky, now waiting for a new image to materialize.

At 150 feet wide, 86 feet tall, and 50 stories in the air, all of Boston was the site for the untitled, unheralded “painting” created by an artist known only as J.R.

The John Hancock Tower was transformed into a vertical lake or a snapshot of the Atlantic from above. In a way, it was a celebration of our port city with its historic harbor, where sometimes on a foggy day, you can catch the scent of brine all the way to Allston.

I miss it, dearly.




To hear me read a version of this essay go to cognoscenti.wbur.org



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