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Not everyone impressed by Jamaica Plain resident’s front lawn art display

Posted by  April 2, 2014 05:02 PM

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Beth Treffeisen

Jonathan Handy of Amory Street in Jamaica Plain uses his front lawn to display art he creates from trash he finds on his morning dog walks.

Smiley-faced planks scatter the front lawn as a mannequin stares down at passers-by from the front window. Various put-together objects line the trees and are placed on top of trash cans.

Jonathan Handy, a systems analyst for the City of Boston, makes a hobby out of turning found trash and stickers in to art, which he displays outside his house at 225 Amory St.
“He’s one-of-kind and it’s an eye-opener,” said Ronald Yee, who frequently visits Handy’s neighbor Suemay Tam. “It looks good if you take a closer look.”

Hardy’s front-yard art project evolves throughout the year as things go missing after a few days and the weather changes.

“I feel absolutely no regrets when things disappear because that means I can put more stuff out,” Handy said.

The artwork on Handy’s front lawn draws the attention of passers-by on their way to the Samuel Adams Brewery. It has also caught the attention of city inspectors, who have ticketed him in the past because much of the artwork borders the sidewalk.

“I have taken tickets from the City of Boston because they thought it was mine,” said Suemay Tam, his neighbor. She said she mails them back, explaining that the artwork is not in her yard.

Tam said she doesn’t have a problem with Hardy’s art — which others see an eyesore — because she doesn’t really notice it anymore when she goes to and from her house.

In the past, an neighbor of Handy brought this issue to the city’s Inspectional Services Department and Handy had to go to court. Handy said that the attorney from ISD accepted that he had a constitutional right to display art on his own property, and Handy said he was able to get the complaint dismissed.

Handy started his artwork gradually and placed it outside as a way for people to view it.

He doesn’t expect to make money or a career out of it but enjoys doing it in his spare time.

Every morning he takes his dog Buddy on a walk and picks up trash, which he brings home and rearranges. He said he gets his inspiration from all the trash he thinks should serve some purpose.

Lately his work has become more primitive and child like.

“I like to think that 8-year-olds would relate to it better than adults,” said Handy.

Handy also gathers inspiration from the sculptures located at the nearby Stonybrook Fine Arts Center.

“I think I started before they did, so I like to think that I inspired them,” said Handy.

His past work includes printed out pictures of local houses that he would put up on the wall and later a collection of 28 old non-working TV sets that he put up in a pyramid shape with a large drawn-on smiley face. Many of the TV sets are no longer there because people would take the valuable parts.

“Thank goodness he got rid of those dangerous TVs,” said Yee. “But the rest is safe.”

Tam said that many of her friends said that Hardy should get his own gallery, but she thinks it’s just his way of expressing himself.

Yee said, “So many people walk by. Everybody notices and they think ‘Hey that’s funny looking’.”

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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