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55-foot statue of a naked woman turns heads on a California tech campus

The 55-foot “Truth is Beauty” statue by California artist Marco Cochrane has raised a few eyebrows as it’s being installed on the new technology campus in San Leandro, Calif.
The 55-foot “Truth is Beauty” statue by California artist Marco Cochrane has raised a few eyebrows as it’s being installed on the new technology campus in San Leandro, Calif. San Leandro Tech Campus

She is tall, very tall — as in 55 feet tall — and weighs 13,000 pounds.

She has the graceful, lean form of a dancer. She stands on her toes, her back gently arched, head tossed back, arms stretched heavenward.

And she is naked.

And that’s a problem for some people who don’t think it’s appropriate that this giant statue of a nude woman has found a home on the new technology campus in San Leandro, Calif.

They haven’t seen her in her entirety yet. So far only her bare feet and shapely calves have been installed.

“I think it's a beautiful sculpture. Obviously, the artist is extremely talented. But I'm not sure it's appropriate for public display,” resident Sally Wrye told KPIX in San Francisco.

“I think it's better suited for a museum where people have the option about whether that's something they want their children to view.”

The statue, called “Truth Is Beauty,” debuted at Burning Man in 2013, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Bay area artist Marco Cochrane created her out of steel rods and mesh. He designed her to stand proud and beautiful and express self-love, a tribute to his childhood best friend who was raped at age 9, the Chronicle reports. He wanted her to inspire people to work toward ending assault and violence against women.

At the base of the sculpture is the phrase, “What would the world be like if women were safe?”

Cochrane, who was on hand when the first part of the statue was installed in San Leandro, told the East Bay Times he knew he would raise a stir when he created a three-part sculpture series featuring larger-than-life nude women in dance poses. He looked forward to the conversations they would start and believes “Truth is Beauty” has found the perfect permanent home.

“Their effort to create a women-friendly tech center is, to me, very important — without women, we're not going to make it, and I mean that on the most profound level, because if it's just men working at it, we're just going to cause the same types of problems,” Cochrane said.

At Burning Man, the statue burned bright, lit up with 2,500 LED bulbs.

On the new 7.3-acre technology park in San Leandro, she exemplifies the town’s manufacturing-to-tech transformation.

“She is the icon of San Leandro’s transformation,” says the campus’ website.

Local media report that the city required the developer to use public art on the new campus.

Because of her towering size, she will be quite visible from far way. The campus itself is next to the downtown San Leandro BART station.

“Truth is beauty, but tacky is forever,” San Leandro resident Gerry Isham wrote to his local newspaper when plans for the statue’s installation were announced. “I don't think she is porn, but I don't think she fits into the art category, maybe craft.”

City Manager Chris Zappata — who considers that statue “part of what we call San Leandro’s renaissance” — told KPIX that supporters outnumber its detractors two to one.

“There is a dearth of representation of women in the tech industry,” Zappata said. “And this hopefully will start to bring attention to that problem as well as bring public art to our community.”

Resident Breana Lankford told KPIX that she doesn’t find the statue offensive in any way “because it’s just a woman posing who happens to be naked. And it’s pretty see through, so it’s not like there’s going to be any explicit details.”

Others agree that critics are making much ado about, well, nothing.

“You know how some people are,” San Leandro resident William Eckels told KPIX. “Some people don’t want to see nobody naked. Not even a bird.”

The rest of the sculpture will arrive in mid-October.

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