I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t love the photo taken at the close of World WarII of a sailor who grabbed a nurse in the middle of Times Square, NYC, bent her back and kissed her. This was his reaction to the news that the Japanese had surrendered. Taken
on August 14, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt was the photographer and his photo was used by Life magazine. That’s how everyone knew about it. A photo of the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima has become a World War II icon and we’re all familiar with the bronze sculptures that depict this photograph.
Another photo of the Times Square happening was taken by a Navy photographer, Victor Jorgenson, and it was on this photo that Seward Johnson decided to base a sculpture upon. First he built a life-sized, bronze one, followed by a 25 foot Styrofoam version which was loaned as a temporary exhibit to the city of Sarasota, Florida. Everyone loved it, right? Wrong! It seemed to be something that some loved and others hated. Art critics didn’t like it. They thought it was a lame imitation of the photo, a blown up figure from a cheap souvenir factory. Some called it a traffic hazard and a gaudy rip-off of Eisenstaedt’s famous photo. However, the public loved imitating the big smoochers and Sarasota County Veterans sponsored a “Monumental Valentines Day Kiss.” For one-hundred dollars, wedding vows were renewed, a photo of the couple kissing, in the same position, was taken, and wedding cake and flowers were included.
The debates continued and in the year 2006, the town ended up sending the sculpture on temporary loan to San Diego, 3000 miles away. (It is not uncommon for sculptures to be moved from city to city.) At that time it was Styrofoam but since then was done in aluminum. Now if Sarasota wanted to keep it, it would cost the town $700,000. In 2010 Jack Curran, 89 year old World War II entered into the “sculpture saga” and paid $500,000 for the statue, then donated it to the city of Sarasota. He asked that it be given a ten year stay on Sarasota’s Bay Front as a tribute to Sarasota’s WW II veterans. There was another reason for Jack to invest so much money into the sculpture and then give it away. His wife Margaret, who died two years before, loved it and asked to see it each time they visited the city. City Commissioners voted 3-2 to accept the donation agreeing to leave it in the same spot for at least a decade. By the way, Seward Johnson has done many sculptures in his lifetime and is now eighty-one years of age.
Like thousands of others, my husband took a photo of me at the sculpture, we didn’t reenact the pose,(just didn’t think of it) nor did we renew our marriage vows there. But I for one is intrigued with the story behind this statue. Someone has called it, “The Kiss That Lingers.” It’s been officially named, “Unconditional Surrender,” referring of course to Japan’s. I think it’s a great piece of history and a landmark that’s distinctively Sarasota’s. You can’t miss it, it’s 25 foot towering height catches your eye and adds special interest to the bay front at Sarasota.