Breaking News Bar

I-57 mural to remember Harrison's Benton connection

  • This barn on Highway 101 north of Salinas, Calif., changed its theme from 'Enjoy the Drive' to the baseball scene 'Enjoy the Game' in 1991, and in this image from 2005 when it was restored. It depicts the golden era of baseball from the 1940's and 50's.

    This barn on Highway 101 north of Salinas, Calif., changed its theme from 'Enjoy the Drive' to the baseball scene 'Enjoy the Game' in 1991, and in this image from 2005 when it was restored. It depicts the golden era of baseball from the 1940's and 50's.
    Courtesy of JOHN CERNEY MURALS WEB SITE

  • George Harrison visited his sister in Benton in the period just before Beatlemania hopped the pond and consumed the United States.

    George Harrison visited his sister in Benton in the period just before Beatlemania hopped the pond and consumed the United States.
    Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum

 
BY RICK HAYES
CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Posted on 7/5/2017, 3:07 PM

Intrigued by the connection between Beatles star George Harrison and the city of Benton, a California artist will donate his talents later this summer by painting a life-size mural.

John Cerney is a Salinas, Calif., native whose artwork is described as "giant cut-out art," ordinarily viewed from the comfort of an automobile. Cerney's work has been featured in numerous magazines, books and newspapers over the years, including National Geographic, Sunset Magazine, Reader's Digest and the New York Times.

"He chose Benton to donate his art for one year. He chooses somewhere across the country every year," said Rachel Gartner, the city's marketing director. "He is interested in the story behind George Harrison visiting his sister (Louise) here.

"The project itself is worth about $20,000. The only thing he is asking of us is to pay for traveling expenses ($2,000), some minor work with installation and the rental of an auger."

Gartner said the project will commence around mid-August and will be done along Interstate 57 on city-owned property between the airport and the interstate. The 16-foot mural will include a photograph of Harrison and his fans.

"It tends to attract visitors," Gartner said. "Some of the towns before where they have done something like this, they've actually made postcards out of his murals. So they're highly visible. We chose the airport because the frontage road that goes next to it, people can stop and check it out."

Mayor Fred Kondritz supports the project.

"There's no ulterior motive for him to do this," Kondritz said. "He just does it because what he likes fits the town he chooses. Sometimes things just fall into your lap and this did. He does amazing work."

Gartner said Cerney has promised to buy lumber and other supplies from local merchants.

After earning an art degree from Cal State Long Beach in 1984, Cerney worked in southern California as a portrait artist, rendering detailed pencil drawings. His patrons were television producers and writers, as well as clients including the late comedian John Candy and hockey star Wayne Gretzky.

The artist's installations are almost exclusively found alongside the highways of California and the Midwest. Cerney splits his time now working on commissions, either private or with businesses, and his own personal projects, according to his web site, johncerneymurals.com.

Harrison died from lung cancer in November 2001.