A 55-foot tall statue of a nude woman unveiled this week in the community of San Leandro is stirring controversy and a lot of conversation. While there have been many complaints of the lack of females in the tech industry, a towering female figure now stands at a tech park across the bay from San Francisco.
At the base of the 13,000-pound statue is a message in 10 languages that says, "What would the world be like if women were safe?"
The statue is roughly three times as tall as Michelangelo's David. It's made of steel mesh in the form of a graceful dancer, with an arched back and arms stretched overhead. The debate is not over its artistic merit, but whether it's appropriate in public.
"If she's a ballerina, she should have some clothes on," said Tonette Watts, 57, who is a resident and mother of a teen girl, who stopped and stared at the statue on her way to work. "If you've got kids you do not want them seeing that."
This is something I'd never have thought would come to San Leandro, it's edgy and modern and it makes me proud.
The statue, named "Truth is Beauty," is on private property at the edge of a new tech office complex, in a highly-trafficked and visible area just across from San Leandro's commuter rail station.
Many people, including city officials, have welcomed the statue as a reflection of the changing demographics in San Leandro, where young millennials now outnumber older residents.
The statue debuted in 2013 at Burning Man, the annual counterculture celebration in the Nevada desert. It was then bought by developers of the complex, under a requirement by the city to include public art at the site. Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter believes that the statue is edgy, modern and sends a powerful message of female strength.
The sculptor, Marco Cochrane, says he was marked as a child by the rape of a neighborhood friend and uses art to bring attention to sexual assault.
"She feels safe and she is loving herself in that moment, and hopefully people can feel that feeling," Cochrane said of the statue. "It's a beautiful woman, and part of it is to draw men in. Then they look down and see the message and they go, 'Ohhhh.' I hope that happens thousands of times."
While some residents believe the statue to be inappropriate as public art, as word has spread about the statue, it has become a popular spot for selfies.
Businessman Michael Fennell took photos of the statue and said, "This is not a woman cowering because the world is against her. This is a woman saying, 'Here we are! We have arrived!' I love it."