The Rainbow Swash is a work by Corita Kent in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The rainbow design painted on a 140-foot (43 m) tall LNG storage tank is the largest copyrighted work of art in the world. Highly visible from daily commuters' drives on Interstate 93, the landmark is considered one of the major landmarks of Boston, akin to the Citgo sign.
Originally created in 1971, the Rainbow Swash comprises large streaks of rainbow colors over a natural gas storage tank on Dorchester's waterfront, located about two miles (3 km) south of Downtown Boston. The landmark 140-foot (43 m) design is highly visible from the Southeast Expressway and passed by thousands of commuters daily. The design was transferred to its present location in 1992 when the original LNG tank was torn down.
In 1971, then-Boston Gas Company president Eli Goldston commissioned Corita Kent to paint the Rainbow Swash design on one of two adjacent LNG tanks facing Boston's Southeast Expressway. The original design was painted on an 8-inch (20 cm) scale model, from which 20 painters reproduced the work on the 140-foot (43 m) high tank.
Since the 1970s, the Rainbow Swash has been controversial. The mural was criticized as featuring a profile of Vietnamese Leader Ho Chi Minh's face in its blue stripe. Kent was a peace activist and some believe she was protesting the Vietnam War, but Kent herself always denied embedding such a profile. In 1992, the original rainbow-painted LNG tank was torn down and the Rainbow Swash was recreated on the adjacent tank despite objections from veterans groups. However, the blue stripe is less pronounced in the 1992 reproduction. Less controversially, the yellow stripe is said to resemble the profile of Fred Flintstone looking southward.
In 2000, Boston Gas was acquired by Keyspan and the Keyspan logo replaced the Boston Gas logo under the rainbow. Keyspan was acquired and merged into National Grid plc and the National Grid logo was placed over the Keyspan logo in September 2007.
A noted photographer, James Prigoff, ended up in a United States Department of Homeland Security database after photographing the Rainbow Swash. The ACLU of California is currently suing the Federal Government calling into question the legality of the Suspicious Activity Reporting program which was used to report the photographer.
The Swash appeared in the opening credits to the 2005 film Fever Pitch.
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- "Boston's Landmark Gas Tank on Southeast Expressway to Get Name Change as KeySpan Transitions to National Grid" (Press release). National Grid plc. September 2007.
- "Lawsuit Challenges Government’s ‘Suspicious Activity Report’ Program". ACLU. July 10, 2014. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
- Artist Information: Corita Kent
- "WGBH switches on digital mural at new Brighton digs" by Donna Goodison, Boston Herald (Sept. 17, 2007)
- The Ho Chi Minh Memorial Gas Tank at Boston Online