Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine, Spring 2018

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John Cerney is a native son, born in Carmel and raised in Salinas. After graduating Salinas High, he followed the path of many of his peers by entering the lettuce business. "I worked in the coolers, drove a forklift, that kind of stuff," he says. He had no art training, and, indeed, little interest. His work in the ag business took him to other produce-growing areas such as El Cerrito and Blythe—places that contain few attractions to occupy a young man's time. On a whim, he bought some paints and decorated his van with a rendition of Steely Dan's Can't Buy a Thrill album cover, garnering plenty of honks and high-fives on the freeway. "That was the seed of my public art," Cerney says. At 26, Cerney decided that his current line of work was a dead end and decided to attend college at Cal State Long Beach. "I took a couple of art classes and got into it," he says. "I soon became an art major." With degree in hand, the budding artist returned to Salinas—and went back into the lettuce business. Looking around for suitable sites on which to paint a mural, his eye fell on an old barn at the intersec- tion of Highway 68 and Hitchcock Road, aka "Confederate Corner." "I tracked down the building's owner and got permission to paint it," he recalls. It became his first public art installation. Soon, a friend, artist D.J. Hall, sent a commission his way to paint the portrait of a writer of the television show "Growing Pains" in 1985. "I quoted $1,000 for the work, quit my job and moved back to LA," Cerney recalls. "The guy loved it and gave me a $500 bonus. Word got around the show's set, resulting in commissions from the entire cast. "I did that kind of work for celebrities for several years, including John Candy and Wayne Gretzky," the artist says. 144 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 8 The first thing Laguna Seca Raceway attendees see is this gigantic racecar. Cerney painted the 32- by 10-foot mural in 2017. Most of his newer works are stand-alone paintings. "I don't need buildings anymore," he says. Cerney achieves a photo-realistic, trompe l'oeil effect in his murals with acrylic paint on weather-resistant MDO plywood. Photo: Bob Heathcote Photo: Kelli Uldall

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