Located in front of Barbour's General Store on King Street in downtown Saint John, in New Brunswick, Canada, is a set of eleven life-sized wood figures depicting people patiently waiting for something. One man buries his face at a newspaper. Another in trench coat, hands in pockets, lurks behind dark glasses. A bald gentlemen with a blond-haired child holds to a pinwheel while the child clutches a lollipop. Two guys chat on a motorcycle next to a lady. A woman sits on a bench, hands folded in her lap, as her child mischievously peeks over the back. An elderly man feeds a pigeon.
The sculptural pieces called “People Waiting” was made by English-born Canadian sculptor John Hooper back in 1977 for Canada Post, and originally stood in front of the Rothesay Avenue post office for 30 years. The sculptures were commissioned as part of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's plan to grace government building with public art. But once the pieces started to weather, Canada Post did not wanted to pay for its upkeep. The city of Saint John then stepped in and paid the $15,000 needed for refurbishment. The statues were restored and relocated to its current site on King Street.
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John Hooper’s vaguely surreal, life-sized figures have been fixtures of Saint John’s public art scene since decades. They are instantly recognizable for the bulky characters and vivid colors. There is another set of figures at the base of Hooper's “Time Piece” clock tower near the Market Square entrance, and yet another one called “People Apart Moving Together”, in the lobby of the city's convention center.
“Time Piece” features three life-sized figures —a mother holding a baby, a biker with arms folded, and an old man with a cap is leaning on a cane. At the rotating top are four smaller figures, three men and a women engaged in various activities: men are using a sextant, telescope, and cell phone and the woman is looking at her wristwatch. At the very top are another four very small figures siting at a card table.
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Hooper’s works can be found across the country and beyond. His playful carving called “Balancing” features four brightly colored whimsical wooden figures balancing on a Y-shaped beam, while a fifth character looking at the others in disdain. “Balancing” was originally installed outside of the National Arts Centre, in Ottawa, in 1981, but then relocated to Colonel By Drive in 2011.
Hooper also fashioned a bronze statue of Canadian athlete Terry Fox, a deviation from his usual playful sculptures, that stands near Parliament Hill, also in Ottawa.
A recipient of numerous awards including the Order of Canada, John Hooper died in 2006, at the age of 79.
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