While driving recently on a tour bus in Boston on our way to the John F. Kennedy Library, our guide pointed out something that really caught my eye—the Rainbow Swach, a work of art painted on a gas storage tank by the late Corita Kent. My photo was lousy but a Google Images search brought dozens of wonderful photos—and information that our tour guide did not give. I was especially enchanted with this Flickr photo by Inventing Liz on the blog of "Seeing the World Through Google Earth, A Travelogue of an Armchair Traveller." I'm enchanted with this blog, by the way.
According to Wikipedia, The Rainbow Swach is a work by Corita Kent in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The rainbow design painted on a 140-foot (43 m) tall LNG storage tank is the largest copyrighted work of art in the world. Highly visible from daily commuters drives on Interstate 93, the landmark is considered one of the major landmarks of Boston.
Originally created in 1971, the Rainbow Swash comprises large streaks of rainbow colors over a natural gas storage tank on Dorchester's waterfront, located about two miles (3 km) south of Downtown Boston. The landmark 140-foot (43 m) design is highly visible from the Southeast Expressway and passed by thousands of commuters daily. The design was transferred to its present location in 1992 when the original LNG tank was torn down.
In 1971, then-Boston Gas Company president Eli Goldston commissioned Corita Kent to paint the Rainbow Swash design on one of two adjacent LNG tanks facing Boston's Southeast Expressway. The original design was painted on an 8-inch (20 cm) scale model with 20 painters reproducing the work on the 140-foot (43 m) high tank.
Since the 1970s, the Rainbow Swach has been controversial. The mural was criticized as featuring a profile of Vietnamese Leader Ho Chi Minh's face in its blue stripe. Kent was a peace activist and some believe she was protesting the Vietnam War, but Kent herself always denied embedding such a profile.In 1992, the original rainbow-painted LNG tank was torn down and the Rainbow Swash was recreated on the adjacent tank despite objections from veterans groups. However, the blue stripe is less pronounced in the 1992 reproduction.
So, though I saw a lot of famous places during my recent trip to New York City and then a Holland America cruise up the east coast of the U.S. and Canada, ending in Quebec City, for some reason Corita Kent's gas storage tank keeps popping up in my mind.