‘Cart of the Nephilim’ has a new home at Johnson County Community College
In September, Johnson County Community College completed the installation of a whimsical artwork outside the warehouse and postal service building on the west side of the campus.
“Cart of the Nephilim,” a 22-foot-tall red handcart complete with strap, sits flush with the outer wall of the brick building, as though one of the biblical giants referenced in the sculpture’s title just carted the building across College Boulevard.
Sculptor Michael Schonhoff created the 2,000-pound work in 2005 as part of the Avenue of the Arts, a competitive program supporting the creation and installation of temporary public artworks in downtown Kansas City. The sculpture spent the summer strapped to the exterior of 360 Architecture’s then-office on Central Avenue.
Within that context, “Cart of the Nephilim” served as a reminder of the work going into downtown revitalization. As a permanent fixture at JCCC, it means something different.
“The story the viewer brings to it changes depending on the location,” Schonhoff says, adding that the sculpture responds to the surrounding architecture of each location.
Schonhoff, along with Cary Esser, professor and chairwoman of the ceramics department at the Kansas City Art Institute, will speak Thursday as part of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art’s Third Thursday Visiting Artists’ Presentation program. Schonhoff plans to discuss how “Cart of the Nephilim” fits into his larger body of work.
Before finding a permanent home as part of the collection at JCCC, “Cart of the Nephilim” was temporarily installed on the Avila University campus. Years of exposure to the elements required restoration, including a new paint job, before the work could be moved to its new home eight miles west.
“Cart of the Nephilim” is Schonhoff’s first foray into public sculpture. He also works in drawing, video, printmaking and performance, and is an assistant curator at the KCAI H&R Block Artspace. He has a bachelor of fine arts from Iowa State University and a master of fine arts from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Pushcarts first appeared in Schonhoff’s work following 9/ll, although the image harks back to an earlier time of the artist’s life — his first job, as a Hy-Vee stocker.
“The handcart serves as a surrogate form for me to make sense out of a world in which I’ve worked as a laborer and how I live in the world as a consumer,” the artist says.
Michael Schonhoff and Cary Esser’s Third Thursday Visiting Artists’ Presentations will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in Hudson Auditorium in the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. Admission is free.