The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 13, March 27, 2005, Article 18


 >From The New York Times: "Though corporate America turns
to Martha Stewart or Michael Graves for a little wow in what
it sells, the United States Mint at the Treasury Department
turned to Joe Fitzgerald.

In the world of coins, Mr. Fitzgerald, 54, is an overnight
sensation. Beating out the mint's in-house designers and a
group of 23 others who constitute the mint's Artistic Infusion
Program, inaugurated last year, Mr. Fitzgerald won two
commissions for a new nickel.

His portrait of Thomas Jefferson, which is uniquely and
controversially off center, with a new larger nose that critics
have compared heatedly to Bob Hope's, appeared on the
obverse of a nickel introduced to the public by President
Bush on March 1. And Mr. Fitzgerald's design for the flip
side (replacing a bison by Jamie Franki) will have its debut
in August, making the nickel pretty much Mr. Fitzgerald's
personal turf and bragging right, designwise, whether you
agree with his thinking or not. Talk about excitement.

"This is 'American Idol' in metal," Mr. Fitzgerald said,
sitting at home in suburban Maryland last week with his
wife, Jean, and their pug, Fabio. Mrs. Fitzgerald calls
her husband "5 Cent," rapper style."

"Mr. Fitzgerald began collecting coins when he was 8 after a
gift of some Civil War era flying-eagle pennies from his mother.
They had belonged to his grandfather in Tennessee.

"I liked history," he said. "I was kind of a dork. I think the
thing that engaged me was that I was holding in my hand
something from 1860, thinking about all the pockets it had
been in, the people who had held it, what was happening
in the country when the coin was made. That to me was
tremendously exciting."

"Mr. Fitzgerald took his cue from Roman coins.

"They took great pride in doing very realistic coins," he
explained. "If the emperor was fat, they put him on the
coin fat."

Mr. Fitzgerald's Jefferson is based on a bust executed in
1789 by Jean-Antoine Houdon, which friends of Jefferson
said was an exceptional likeness. The mint asked Mr.
Fitzgerald in subsequent drafts to bag and sag the
president's face to approximate him in 1805, when one
of his most famous executive initiatives, the Lewis and
Clark expedition, was under way.

Mr. Fitzgerald's second design, to be introduced on the
nickel's reverse in August, commemorates Clark's sighting
of the Pacific and reproduces his journal entry, "Ocian in
view! O! The joy!" Playing safe, the mint changed Ocian
to Ocean."

In addition to a bigger, more accurate nose, Jefferson,
in the most radical aspect of Mr. Fitzgerald's design, is
positioned at extreme left on the coin, and in a tight
close-up that cuts out wig and collar.

"Don't bother with the hair," Mr. Fitzgerald recalled advising
himself. "Hair tells you nothing about a person's personality.
Work on the eyes and the mouth. My frustration with American
coins is that the heads are so small, you can't tell much about
an individual's character." Mr. Fitzgerald included the word
"Liberty" in Jefferson's own hand rather than a typeface, and
floated it before his mouth in the fashion of political cartoons
of the period."

"Mr. Fitzgerald's designs, the last two of four in the mint's
"Westward Journey" nickel series, will be replaced by a new
permanent nickel in 2006. His designs will be submitted, with
others, to the secretary of the Treasury as candidates for the
new coin."

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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