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Next year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift to Washington. Organizers have hired psychedelic commercial artist Peter Max—-whose past clients include several U.S. presidents, Continental Airlines, hedge fund managers, Mikhail Gorbachev, Taylor Swift, and the Super Bowl—-to be the event’s official artist. Last week the festival unveiled Max’s poster design, and it’s a big jump from past Cherry Blossom Festival adverts.
A cosmic jump, that is. In Max’s fantastical work, one of his signature figures, the cosmic jumper, clutches an origami crane as he leaps over a disproportionately small cherry tree. The fuchsia and orange sky is speckled with a potpourri of trippy little gewgaws—-stars, doves, the moon, some kind of face, and a friendly Saturn hovering just above the U.S. Capitol. Why, hello there, Mr. Saturn! Aren’t your rings so happy and lime green today!
But Max’s design does stick to one Cherry Blossom Festival tradition: geographic tomfoolery. He scrunches the Washington Monument and the Capitol so close together, senators could zip-line between the observation deck and the Statue of Freedom. Previous years’ posters have similarly distorted downtown Washington (see the 2008 and 2009 designs, above).
When asked how long it took him to come up with the illustration, Max says, “This one came kind of quickly.” He was delighted to work with the festival, especially with Michelle Obama serving as honorary chair. But he’s not usually choosy about jobs. “If I have time to do it, I do it. It’s as simple as that,” he says—-as long as it’s wholesome stuff. “I only want to do things that are positive.”
Peter Max will exhibit and sign his works Oct. 15 at Wentworth Gallery in Bethesda and McLean. Visit petermax.com for more information.