1970 Downtown Anaheim, Home Savings
Near a busy sunlit intersection in Anaheim dominated by the sounds of traffic and the occasional air-brake hiss of city busses, a young child is going for a joy ride with a trio of dolphins. His arms outstretched like a rodeo bronc buster, the youth seems barely capable of keeping his seat, as the creatures slip over and below the waves of an imagined sea.
John Edward Svenson's sculpture celebrating the joyful spirit of childhood has enhanced the southwest corner of Harbor Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue (one mile north of Disneyland) for over forty years. The bronze cast was commissioned for Anaheim's Home Savings of America branch in 1970, to accompany Millard Sheets' brilliant tile mosaic depicting the early years of Anaheim history. Through his association with the Sheets Studio from the 1950s through the early 1970s, Svenson produced more than twenty sculptures for Home Savings and the Ahmanson Corporation all over Southern California.
Whenever I walk downtown and encounter the sculpture, I'm always drawn in by the pleasing flow of its shapes and the illusion of motion. More idealistic than realistic, the piece has a magical "far away" quality that I like. It seems to exist in a completely different world from its urban surroundings.
Chase Bank now owns the building and the artwork, and sadly the reflecting fountain has become an unkempt planter with the addition of a scraggly bougainvillea and a large rock resting on the fountain's original nozzles. Someone (probably well intentioned) placed plastic pots of flowers into the basin at some point, but the plants have long since died and dried up, and the pots have become just more litter among the trash tossed in by people passing by.
Besides the obvious neglect and lack of stewardship on the part of the current owners, there is no apparent signature or credit given to the artist, who still lives and works today from his studio in Upland. (Perhaps John Svenson's name is buried somewhere beneath all that landscaping bark?)
A beautiful new book "Exploring Form: The Life and Sculpture of John Edward Svenson" by the artist's son David is now available and is an enjoyable way to become re-acquainted with Svenson's amazing body of work. Wouldn't it be fantastic if the city of Anaheim and Chase Bank would restore the fountain and Svenson's sculpture with the care and respect that it deserves?
UPDATE! Art in Anaheim (Part Two): Sculpture Finally Gets Some Love!