Sculptor John Hooper dies at 79

<strong>from Arts – Jan 28, 2006</strong>

Canadian sculptor John Hooper, known for his colourful wood carvings, has died at the age of 79.

Hooper’s family revealed Saturday the artist passed away in a nursing home in Hampton, N.B. Thursday evening surrounded by his loved ones. Hooper had been suffering from symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease for several years.

Hooper’s works can be found across the country. He fashioned the bronze statue of Terry Fox near Parliament Hill and also in downtown Ottawa, a playful carving called Balancing sits on the grounds of the National Arts Centre overlooking the Rideau Canal.

The artist is also a recipient of the Order of Canada.

“He was a great artist without question,” said Tom Smart, former curator at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in New Brunswick. Smart oversaw 1997 retrospective at the gallery of Hooper’s work.

One of Hooper’s most famous wood works, People Waiting, stood in front of a post office in Saint John for 30 years. Canada Post commissioned the work but threatened to sell it two years ago because it didn’t want to pay for its upkeep — the pieces were cracking due to exposure to the elements. The city of Saint John stepped in and paid for the $15,000 refurbishment.

The 11 larger-than-life figures were recently moved to the New Brunswick Museum’s reception area for temporary storage. Hooper meant his works to be interactive, so the figures will be reinstalled this spring in a park.

The figures include a mother and her groceries sitting on a bench with an impatient child, a girl with a hand-held windmill and three motorcycle riders.