Ten years ago on September 11th, 2001, in the midst of the chaos of the attack on the Twin Towers, it was reported that rescue workers attempted to assist a seemingly stunned businessman in Liberty Park, only to find that he wasn’t a real person. He was a sculpture. The sculpture, entitled “Double Check”, had been created by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. and placed in Liberty Park in 1982.

Several weeks ago as I was driving down Main St. in our little town, I wondered about what sort of party was going on on the lawn of the Alamance County Arts Council building. A few days later I drove by in the late evening  and saw the same party! It turned out that I had been fooled by one of the Johnson’s sculptures. I soon discovered that we had a great new art exhibit in town!  Beyond the Frame: Impressionism Revisited is an exhibit featuring  Johnson’s sculptures inspired by the paintings of Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, and Edouard Manet.

The “party” that I had seen on the front lawn is entitled Were You Invited? and is based on Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. Johnson, in a sense, “recreates” the painting, while at the same time filling in many details “beyond the frame” from his own imagination.


Some of the details added by Johnson are small (or maybe sneaky is a better word), and one really needs to be there to fully appreciate them. However, one large addition gives the piece its name. Johnson adds himself and some of his artist friends as party crashers at a back table. They are all dressed in modern clothes and are “drinking all of Renoir’s wine”. A man in a top hat is brandishing a cane and demanding to know “Were you invited?!”

  One thing that makes this exhibit particularly unique is that visitors are encouraged to photograph, touch, pose, and become a part of these life-like pieces of art. Here’s a pic of the Z-man as an “uninvited guest.” Stay away from the wine, Buddy. You’re a little too young.

 Also near the front lawn is a 20-foot recreation of Renoir’s Dance at Bougival entitled A Turn of the Century. Those are my children and my mom standing in front of it.


On the lawn is also a sculpture entitled A Thought to Consider,  inspired by Edouard Manet’s In the Conservatory. This one is just right for posing. As you can see, Little Man was VERY suspicious of this entire exhibit. He was ready to leave as soon as we arrived.


One other lovely exhibit outdoors is called On Poppied Hill, and it’s inspired by a combination of two of Monet’s paintings, Field of Poppies and Woman with a Parasol–Madame Monet and Her Son. Monet is also shown painting this picture “in the open air.”



When you enter the indoor exhibit, you’re greeted by Vincent van Gogh’s landlady. The sculpture is painted in the style of Van Gogh.


Also, as part of the indoor exhibit, is a remarkable recreation of Monet’s La Japonaise. Sassafras was a little shy about posing with her own fan.


Finally, I want to mention another recreation of a Renoir painting. Pondering the Benefits of Exercise is inspired by Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise.

We thoroughly enjoyed this exhibit and a fun time was had by all. Well, almost by all. Little Man was finally happy to have his picture taken on a bench with his siblings….sans sculptures, of course!