Rainbow Swash

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Rainbow Swash is the common name for an untitled[1] 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.[2] Highly visible from daily commuters' drives on Interstate 93, it is considered one of the major landmarks of Boston, akin to the Citgo sign.[3][4]

Boston gas tank


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 hundreds of thousands of commuters daily. The design was transferred to its present location in 1992 when the original LNG tank was torn down.[5][6]


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.[5] 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.[7]

Since the 1970s, the Rainbow Swash has been controversial. The mural was criticized as purportedly featuring a profile of Vietnamese Leader Ho Chi Minh's face in its blue stripe.[2] Kent was a peace activist, and some believe she was protesting the Vietnam War, but Kent herself always denied embedding such a profile.[8][9] 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.[5] However, the blue stripe is less pronounced in the 1992 reproduction.[10] Less controversially, the yellow stripe is said to resemble the profile of Fred Flintstone looking southward.[11]

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.[6][12][13]


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[needs update] suing the Federal Government calling into question the legality of the Suspicious Activity Reporting program which was used to report the photographer.[14] In February 2019 the Ninth Court of Appeals affirmed an earlier finding for the government.[15]

Notable appearances[edit]

The Swash appeared in the opening credits to the 2005 film Fever Pitch.


  1. ^ "Boston Arts Czar On Her Favorite Work Of Public Art — And What She Thinks Our Ranking Missed". Wbur.org. Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Wartime Visions", National Public Radio (November 3, 2001).
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "WGBH switches on digital mural at new Brighton digs - BostonHerald.com". Archived from the original on 2011-06-13. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
  5. ^ a b c Corcoran, Michael (October 21, 2007). "Belatedly, Dot says tanks, Corita", The Boston Globe.
  6. ^ a b Chesto, John (September 25, 2007). "Under the rainbow: Logo to change" Archived 2009-09-02 at the Wayback Machine, The Patriot Ledger.
  7. ^ "GasLines: The Rainbow Tank is Sweet Sixteen" (PDF), Boston Gas History, Boston Gas via Simpson.net (November 1987).
  8. ^ Rogers, Barbara; Stillman Rogers; Patricia Mandell; Juliette Rogers (2007). Massachusetts: A Guide to Unique Places. Globe Pequot. pp. 30. ISBN 978-0-7627-4419-0.
  9. ^ Rainbow Swash. Celebrateboston.com
  10. ^ Noonan, Kathleen (February 9, 2008). "Sister Corita's art of a higher order", The Courier-Mail
  11. ^ "National Grid Gas Tank - "Rainbow Swash" - Boston, Massachusetts | landmark, gasometer / gas holder". Wikimapia.org. Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  12. ^ Howe, Peter J. (August 25, 2007). "National Grid, Keyspan deal done", The Boston Globe.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ "Lawsuit Challenges Government's 'Suspicious Activity Report' Program". Aclu.org. July 10, 2014. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  15. ^ "Willey Gill vs DOJ". court listener.com. Retrieved 2020-10-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°18′5.23″N 71°2′42.6″W / 42.3014528°N 71.045167°W / 42.3014528; -71.045167