This week, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will drape a 70-foot-wide version of “Mattress Flip” across the pillars atop its famous steps. The image of the boys playing will announce the opening of Zoe Strauss: Ten Years.
It will also serve as a memorial.
The name of the boy in Strauss’ photo, the one watching the action, is Lawrence Edward Rose Jr., but everyone called him Boo. On June 17, 2007, six years after Strauss transformed his smiling face into a work of art, Boo was shot on Seventh and Mifflin streets, three blocks away from where he and his cousin, Botty (pronounced “Boo-dee”), flipped on mattresses that summer afternoon. The first bullet entered Boo’s stomach; the second, his knee. Boo died on July 12, the 214th homicide out of that year’s 392. He was 19 years old.
For 10 years, Boo’s family didn’t know the photograph existed, never mind that it was printed in books, exhibited in museums and hanging in homes all over the world. And Strauss, who lives four miles from the boy’s family, never knew about his murder.
Now, Strauss’ work and Boo’s memory are intertwined forever, frozen in one moment of bliss under the sun. It’s as if the series of chance encounters that led to Boo’s family’s discovery of “Mattress Flip” proves Strauss’ point: big or small, everything is connected.