At Peter Rockwell's first U.S. exhibit more than 25 years ago, a visitor glanced at his sculptures, pronounced that they "sure as hell ain't nothing like his father's work," and stalked out.
Rockwell, 57, is now an established sculptor who lives in Italy.While the father is beloved for his often-comical pictures of freckle-faced boys and pigtailed girls at play, the son fashions whimsical sculptures designed for children to play on. His work is on display in galleries in Rome and Washington, and in parks across the United States.
Rockwell has returned to Stockbridge, where his father spent his last years, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his father's birth. The son is taking four months to shape a 9-foot, 11,500-pound block of limestone into a totem of fantastic, child-pleasing monster faces. The sculpture will stand at the entry to the $4.3 million Norman Rockwell Museum, which opened last year.
Rockwell acknowledges a common strain with his father. "He had a kind of childlike side to him," the sculptor said. "He had this kind of quirky sense of humor."
The father's delight in children and their world also carried over to Rockwell's other two sons: Thomas Rockwell, 61, of LaGrange, N.Y., writes children's books. Jarvis Rockwell, 62, of Great Barrington, Mass., is an abstract painter who sometimes assembles surrealistic, pop-art pieces with children's plastic toy figures.