A Note on Whitman and Butterfly
by John Giannotti
Click image to view photo
I approached then Camden mayor Randy Primas
in 1989 and told him that I thought Camden should have a monument
to Whitman. Because cost is such a great factor when considering
a bronze sculpture, I told him that I would donate the work to
the city and get funds from the Rutgers Research Council for materials.
The city would then be responsible only for the casting in bronze.
I completed the work in 1991 after ten months' work; it was displayed
for a time in City Hall and was part of the 100th anniversary
celebration of Whitman's death. Originally, the sculpture was
meant to stand in the park next to the Walt Whitman House, but
ultimately was placed in the Children's Garden at the New Jersey
State Aquarium on the Camden waterfront. Two other bronzes of
the work exist: one is at Soka University in Japan and the other
at the Brassner Sculpture Garden in West Palm Beach, FL. The butterfly
idea came from a photo of Whitman seated in a photographer's studio
in Philadelphia. He was holding a papier mâché butterfly on his
finger. In light of Whitman's love of nature and minutiae, I thought
the delicate image was perfect for the sculpture. What else could
he be holding, a cliché image of Leaves of Grass?