Rainbow Swash – Boston, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

For the most part, commuting to work is no fun. But for a few thousand lucky Boston commuters, their drive is slightly brightened – or for those interested in copyright reform, darkened – with the world’s largest piece of copyrighted artwork.

In 1971, former nun and artist Corita Kent was commissioned by then-Boston Gas Company president Eli Goldstone to paint the Rainbow Swash design on one of two adjacent tanks facing Boston’s Southeast Expressway. However, Kent’s original 8-inch model design would require the help of 20 other painters to reproduce the work on the 140-foot (43 m) tall tank.

Since its creation, there has been controversy over the possible sentiments of the painting. Kent was a known Vietnam War protester – like almost every other artist of her generation – causing some to speculate that a profile of Vietnamese Leader Ho Chi Minh is featured in the blue stripe of the painting. However Kent denied embedding such a profile, and in 1992 the original tank was destroyed and the Rainbow Swash was recreated on the adjacent tank, with a less-pronounced blue stripe.

Know Before You Go

The tank is closed to visitors, so you'll just have to settle for the view from the interstate (which seems to be the best view anyway). If coming from downtown Boston, head south on I-93 (aka Southeast Expressway). Look out for it near Exit 15, you can't miss it.

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