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Cut-Out Farm Shapes of Salinas Artist John Cerney


Farm art salinas

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One creative guy responsible for humanizing and educating about the life of the farm workers in the Salinas Valley "lettuce bowl" is artist John Cerney, a Cal State University Long Beach art school graduate. Uniquely carving a career out of oversized cut outs of people working in the fields, Cerney has spent nearly several decades documenting the life of farm workers in the fields along Highway 101 and Highway 68 in Monterey County.  His work has also appeared in other states and even in the Steinbeck Museum in Salinas, though he did hesitate about that assignment.  A true artist, he wasn't sure if he wanted to create a life-sized Marilyn Monroe shape for the museum's display to commemorate her winning the Miss Artichoke contest in Castroville during the late film stars launch of her career. Cerney liked creating outdoor, oversized characters and Marilyn would indoors and true to size. He took the gig anyway.

With more work than he can handle, the Carmel native who grew up in Salinas, went to college in Los Angeles County and returned to the place he loved. Working initially without pay, Cerney created scenes on a local car service garage and a barn. In 1991 he created a mural of a truck loaded with produce and was paid by packinghouses whose labels appeared on boxes on the painted truck.  River Ranch packinghouse, Dole and Crown Packing Company are a few of his clients. Cerney creates each work through a series of photos, laying a grid for enlargements that are scaled to 3 times the original size. He then transfers the images to larger squares on sheets of 1" paper-surfaced plywood. He cuts out the figure and paints them using acrylics. The figures are then braced with steel and set on embedded timbers to withstand wind. For motorists breezing by at 65 to 70 miles per hour, the first impression is, Wow, did you see that? The art looks realistic except for the size.


Cerney conceptualized the size by factoring the speed people are driving and a how much a person can absorb in seconds. If you've never driven on this stretch of road along Highway 101, take the route the next time you must go between the north and south. Interstate 5, the faster road, doesn't offer this kind of scenery.  It is something you'll remember and enjoy.