March 15, 2010

Vinalhaven artist follows LOVE icon with HOPE sculpture


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A photo of a new Robert Indiana sculpture unveiled this week in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. [note that this is a low-resoultion photo best used at two columns or less]

Staff Writer

Robert Indiana, the reclusive Maine artist who created the ''LOVE'' icon with the sideways ''O'' in the 1960s, was back in the cultural spotlight this week when he unveiled a new ''HOPE'' sculpture at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Indiana, who lives on Vinalhaven, did not attend the unveiling, and declined an interview request.

The sculpture has been popular with conventioneers, many stopping to pose for photos alongside the 6-foot-by-6-foot stainless steel sculpture of the word that has been adopted as a campaign theme of candidate Barack Obama.

''It's right in front of the Pepsi Center, and as soon as we unveiled it, people were lining up for photos,'' said Michael McKenzie of American Image Atelier, an art-production facility in New York, who has worked with Indiana many times over the years.

Proceeds from sales of items associated with ''HOPE'' will benefit the Obama campaign, McKenzie said.

Indiana has always resisted the idea of a sequel to ''LOVE,'' arguing ''that you cannot follow up love,'' McKenzie said. But he changed his thinking as Obama emerged as a legitimate candidate.

''We've had this discussion for some time, what is the word in the air that synopsizes what was going on around us and what the future held,'' McKenzie said. ''I was driving in Manhattan and saw a poster of the Dalai Lama that said, 'Hope.' I called Bob from my car, and he had just been looking at 'The Audacity of Hope' by Obama. I said, 'It must be.'

''He debated it back and forth for months and months and months,'' McKenzie said. ''And when it became more likely that Obama would win the nomination, Bob decided we should take a course of action and get involved.''

Right now, there is only one version of the sculpture. It will be moved to New York after the convention closes, but it won't be placed permanently until after the election, McKenzie said.

''If the election goes the way we want it to go, it will end up on the White House lawn. If things don't go our way, it could end up at (the Museum of Modern Art),'' he said.

Lauren Holmgren and Josh Dow, who run the Green Foundry in Eliot, created the sculpture for Indiana, working with McKenzie.

''Bob wanted to be sure the sculpture was made in Maine,'' McKenzie said.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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