Muralist John Cerney of Salinas, Calif., shows a conceptual art piece to the Chamber of Commerce, Friday. Mark Wilson Photo
The scenery along a highway near you might soon inspire an epidemic of double takes.
Outdoor artist and California native John Cerney visited with city leaders Friday at the Roswell Chamber of Commerce to discuss the possibility of displaying a large plywood scene near the city. His artwork, described as “giant cut-out art,” utilizes the landscape as a background and is intended for the viewing pleasure of the unsuspecting traveler.
Cerney’s idea for a project tailored to Roswell depicts extraterrestrials beside a UFO greeting a woman who offers up a homemade pie and a rancher leaning upon his rifle next to an automobile.
“My projects are meant to be seen along a highway,” he said. “The thing for me is to have a driver of a car have their mind in a certain place.
“It’s a whole different experience than walking into a museum and looking at a wall and seeing a name and a title, where you’re expecting to see something. But when you aren’t expecting to see something and you’re by it in a second, it’s your reaction, ‘What did I just see?’
“I want that moment of disbelief. And maybe you’ll turn around, or if you don’t turn around then maybe you’ll stop later and take a picture. But I like that. It enhances your trip, whatever you’re doing that day.”
Cerney, whose cut-out scenes can be found in more than 200 locations across the United States, described his style as 1940s, 1950s retro, with a Norman Rockwell-like sense of humor. He said the projects typically take two to three months to complete in his workshop and just a few days to put up on location.
If Cerney is able to find an interested party to cover expenses, he said he could start on a Roswell project as early as February.
Cerney said his projects simply start with a “fun idea” and that his concept for a UFO scene quickly jumped ahead of the other projects he has in mind.
“The one I have projected for Roswell is a complex scene for me,” he said. “It has a lot of pieces, but they aren’t monstrously big. I want it to look semi-realistic.
“But with aliens and flying saucers, you can make any size you want.”
The Roswell cut-out scene would be Cerney’s first project in New Mexico.