Lebanon’s newest work of public art, a mural painted along 8th Street depicting a young boy and girl sitting side by side, has recently been completed.
Artist BKFoxx finished the mural on the side of Market View Apartments at 38 S. 8th St. on April 17. Building owner Kapel LLC and former NFL player Jared Odrick commissioned the art from Foxx, who began work on it the previous week.
Owing to a 2020 City of Lebanon ordinance requiring new murals to be approved by a board and the mayor, the project managers were handed a cease-and-desist order on April 13. According to those involved with the project, they were not aware of the ordinance at the time the mural began and did not notify the city of their project plans.
But, as public interest spiked and work continued on the mural, the city expedited the confirmation process and approved the mural.
It is the latest of several philanthropic contributions made by Odrick to his hometown. The Lebanon High School graduate supported the 2017 opening of Lebanon County Christian Ministries’ FRESH Start Emergency Shelter and Resource Center, which itself features a mural painted by local artist Olquin Perdomo. In 2020, Odrick donated a large bronze sculpture made by Lorri Acott to Coleman Memorial Park. The donation of the sculpture, titled “Conversation with Myself,” was meant to be “a subtle yet substantial way of providing some new social and interpretive property to Lebanon,” according to Odrick.
The basis of the new mural is a well-known illustration by Norman Rockwell, “Boy and Girl Gazing at Moon,” which appeared on the April 24, 1926, edition of the Saturday Evening Post. The illustration is also known as “Sunset” or “Puppy Love” and the original oil-on-canvas painting was donated to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 2015. At the time, the painting was estimated to be worth around $4 million.
Rockwell’s scene was recreated by the New York-based Foxx, who specializes in realistic spray-painted murals without the use of stenciling, projectors, or similar tools. In reimagining the artwork, Foxx had to translate the 20×24 inch painting onto a 20×35 foot wall – a canvas 210 times larger in area than the original. According to Sharon Zook, president of the Lebanon Valley Council on the Arts, Foxx used local kids of Puerto Rican, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Caucasian descent as models, along with a dog named Addy.
The heritage of the kids is given a nod in the form of the Puerto Rican flag. Along with the backpack it appears on, the flag of the U.S. territory is one of several additions and changes to the scene, which also swaps out a fishing rod and can of bait for a baseball bat and soccer ball.
Rockwell’s artwork and even his name (“Rockwellian”) have become a shorthand for a particular kind of nostalgic American idealism. Born in 1894, he began his career in his teens with work produced for magazines and the Boy Scouts of America, eventually submitting his first successful cover artwork for the Saturday Evening Post in 1916. Rockwell’s work with the Post, which included “Boy and Girl Gazing at Moon” and a 1943 interpretation of the famous “Rosie the Riveter” character, spanned 47 years and 323 covers (he produced over 4,000 works in his lifetime).
This early body of work has received both praise and criticism for its old-fashioned portrayal of the country and its customs. Rockwell’s style has been subverted by many artists since it became popular in the early 20th century, but Rockwell himself was among the first to reexamine Rockwellian America. The artist’s later years in the 1960s and 1970s saw him become more interested in the social issues of the time, particularly the Civil Rights movement.
After decades of work for the Post, which held internal policies against displaying minorities in anything other than servile roles, Rockwell broke off with his longtime employer in 1963 to work for Look magazine, which permitted him to explore the topics of race, prejudice, and poverty, among others. His 1964 painting “The Problem We All Live With” depicts a scene from the school desegregation crises of the time and is still recognized as a powerful image of the 1960s Civil Rights era.
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