Gritty in pink: ‘Yarnbomber’ outfits iconic Rocky statue

The statue of Rocky Balboa in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art was outfitted with a pink sweater over the weekend. Local graffiti “yarnbomber” Jesse Hemmons pulled one over on the controversial statue.

Hemmons has left her fuzzy mark on many structures around the city–including cozies for bike racks and knitted upholstery for city buses. This is the first time her yarnbombing came with a political statement. While surreptitiously measuring the Rocky statue for a sweater (70-inch chest and 50-inch waist), Hemmons discovered its body proportions are nothing like a real person’s–the head is too small, the feet are enormous, and the arms are pterodactyl-like.

It’s also hollow. The statue was made cheaply to be a prop in a “Rocky” movie. Many people do not believe it has any place among the timeless works of art at the Art Museum. “I live across the street from the statue, almost every day there’s a very long line to get a picture taken,” said Hemmons, who often walks her dog past the statue. “I don’t see the same lines going into the museum. It’s kind of ironic that people are spending most of their time with the statue.” Across the chest of the sweater, Hemmons knitted the words “Go See The Art.”

She chose bright pink because it’s a color that gets noticed, and it makes the figure of the boxer more feminine. “When we were finished installing, there was this group of men–probably mid-20s early 30s–they looked like they had really been excited about getting their picture with the Rocky statue,” said Hemmons. “Then they see a pink sweater. They were very disappointed. They kind of took their picture with not much enthusiasm, which I thought was funny.” Rogue visitors often dress the Rocky statue in T-shirts or hats. Margot Berg, in the city’s Office of Arts and Culture, described the pink sweater as “adorable” but said maintenance workers routinely remove and discard material left on sculptures.

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The sweater was sewn on the statue late Saturday afternoon. By Monday morning, it was gone. It may have been a maintenance worker with the Department of Parks and Recreation, or a chilly tourist with a 70-inch chest. Nobody knows.

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