ORLANDO, Fla. – For almost four decades, visitors to Orlando International Airport have enjoyed gazing upon the spectacle affectionately known as “The Sleeping Man” a.k.a. “The Traveler” by artist Duane Hanson. He’s been sitting in his display case on Level 3 of the Main Terminal, undisturbed by time kept on the cracked Seiko watch on his wrist. Recently, the iconic sculpture underwent a refresh and restoration, which was done in public view, much to the amazement of passersby.
Art conservator Diana Galante crawled into the acrylic display case, which was opened for the project, and performed a thorough dusting as well as touching up some imperfections in the paint on the beloved bronze sculpture.
“I loved working on this project,” said Galante. “Duane Hanson’s artworks are so accessible to the public, but also technically masterful. As an art conservator, it’s my job to preserve artwork for the future, which I did by meticulously cleaning the surfaces, then stabilizing and filling losses to the paint. It’s not often I get to be part of the installation.”
Like other large-scale artworks commissioned for the airport, “The Traveler” continues to serve as an intentional and memorable wayfinding design element for visitors and passengers. The unforgettable lifelike sculpture still begs the question, “Is he real?” with viewers watching him intently to see if the figure – dressed in blue shorts, a coral top and running shoes – moves or blinks. When “The Traveler” was unveiled in October 1985, the model who posed for the piece – a neighbor of Hanson’s — was in attendance, sitting next to the finished sculpture. When the model abruptly stood up and walked away, it caused quite a stir among the staff and visitors.
Originally installed near a bar in the Main Terminal with no covering, “The Traveler” required several refurbishments over the years by Hanson and his stylist, due to the interactions of passengers from around the world, including those who threw coins at him for good luck. While the interaction was appreciated, “The Traveler” was eventually encased in acrylic in its current location, where he continues to delight and intrigue passengers.
Internationally acclaimed artist and sculptor Duane Hanson (1925-1996), who worked from his studio in South Florida, is known for his hyperrealistic sculptures portraying working-class figures dressed in everyday clothes that charm onlookers into believing they are viewing real people.
Using polyester resin, Bondo, bronze or fiberglass, Hanson’s technique involved casting living people and then painting the figure with all the imperfections and veins of actual skin. Hanson also used photography to develop his vision, shooting Polaroids of his models, looking for the pose that felt most real.
“My art is not about fooling people,” Hanson once said. “It’s the human attitudes I’m after – fatigue, a bit of frustration, rejection. To me, there is a kind of beauty in all this.”
GOAA’s social media team helped to document the process: