All I knew as we approached Trenton, NJ was that we should be looking for the world’s largest tooth, based on an address listed on RoadsideAmerica.com. As we approached, I saw signs for “Grounds for Sculpture,” and excitedly noticed several other over-sized artworks.
This 15-foot tall tooth isn’t on the “Grounds for Sculpture” proper, but it’s nearby. It actually sits unceremoniously on the side of the road, in front on the Congoleum warehouse. There was some trepidation as we parked, but we figured we would be okay on a weekend!
That’s when The Boy struck with this zinger, delivered with a smirk: “We should go see if there’s any plaque with the artist’s name.” BAM!! Bless him; he inherited his mother’s wit.
Of course, there was a plaque. The piece is officially called “Tooth,” by Seward Johnson. It was made of aluminum in 1982, and is on loan from The Sculpture Foundation, Inc.
As quirky as this subject is, I could see that there was thought and technique involved in creating this piece, evidenced by the variances in color and texture. I’ve since learned more about Seward Johnson, whose work reminds me of the larger-than-life objects we’ve discovered by Claes Oldenburg, like the world’s largest clothespin. Seward is a prolific artist with an interesting story. He’s the grandson of Robert Wood Johnson, the co-founder of Johnson & Johnson. Apparently, he even worked for the company for a brief time.
His most controversial work is the “Unconditional Surrender” series. Since it mimics the photo “V-J Day in Times Square” by Alfred Eisenstaedt — which immortalized the anonymous couple kissing in Times Square — it resulted in charges of copyright infringement.
Johnson is best known for his trompe l’oeil painted bronze statues of people in frozen poses. Interestingly, one of his works, “Comprehension,” was installed in front of “Tooth,” to give the impression that this couple is contemplating it.
As we were driving up to the tooth, we all craned our necks, thinking that this was a real couple standing there. Obviously, they were not dressed for the weather!