First Class Art

 

Why is there a snarling dog inside the Lake Worth Post Office?

BY STACI STURROCK | PALM BEACH POST STAFF WRITER | AUGUST 30, 2015

The mural in the U.S. Post Office on Lucerne Avenue in Lake Worth. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)LAKE WORTH: A grim postcard of pioneer life

The art: “Settler Fighting Alligator from Rowboat,” oil on canvas, 1946

The post office: 720 Lucerne Ave. The mural is on the west wall of the lobby.

The artist: In 1941, Tampa’s Joseph D. Myers won the commission for the Lake Worth post office, which opened in 1940.

But he abandoned murals for stained glass, establishing a busy and well-regarded studio in Tampa. His firm would design and install stained glass in more than 200 churches, as well as hospitals, high schools, banks and even amusement parks.

In 1989, Myers died at the age of 76.

The background: Myers’ depiction of two men and their hound dog, standing in a rowboat and facing off against an angry alligator, is all bared teeth and taut, terrified faces — more unsettling than most post-office pieces, more warning sign than welcome mat.

“It is a little dark, to say the least,” says Mark Berger, manager of the Lake Worth post office. “I feel sorry for the alligator if they let that dog go.”

According to the Post’s Eliot Kleinberg, Myers and the bureaucrat overseeing the Lake Worth project squabbled for months over the artist’s design, which the official deemed “disappointing.” Among other criticisms, he told Myers that “the dog is in no way convincing.”

Undaunted, Myers proceeded with his singular vision, but condensation issues in the building delayed the mural’s installation for five years, and Myers didn’t receive his $1,000 commission until 1947. (Was he told that the check was in the mail?)