Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine, Spring 2018

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"The next public art installation I did here was the baseball game mural on a barn next to Highway 101 in Prunedale," Cerney says. He got into a bit of hot water with CalTrans for that one, since he sold local businesses on the idea of making their logos part of the work, like the ads at a real ballpark. Once he got that sorted out, commissions started to roll in. He painted a few murals here and there for commer- cial clients and hit upon the idea of adding freestanding painted elements in front of them to add depth and dimension. That led to a revelation and the invention of a whole new art form. "I realized I didn't need buildings to paint on any more," Cerney recalls. He learned how to build scaffolding from some contractor buddies and started creating the larger-than-life, photo-realistic portraits of ag industry figures that currently adorn the Monterey County landscape. "At this point, there are between 30 and 40 of my pieces around the county," he says. And he's branched out in subject matter: recent installa- tions include a young girl on the building that houses the Carmel Valley Art Association, a portrait of actor James Dean that adorns the newly renovat- ed Brookdale Lodge in Santa Cruz County; the dog that welcomes visitors to the SPCA for Monterey County on Highway 68; and the motorcycle and race car across the street at Laguna Seca Raceway. Some of Cerney's pieces advertise businesses, but some are just there for the fun of it. "I like the idea that people wonder why they're there," he says. In recent years, Cerney has gifted many towns across the nation with his creations. "Once or twice a year, I will do a free piece and donate it to a community," he says. At this point, he estimates that his work resides in 22 states. Learn more about John Cerney and his unique art form, including a video of him at work, by visiting 146 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 John Cerney donates works to municipalities across the country, often in homage to famous events. "George Comes to Benton—1963" references the occasion when Beatle George Harrison came to this Illinois town to visit his sister. Photo: John Cerney, with editing by Carol Catalano 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.

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