Nude sculpture in San Leandro stirs controversy, conversation

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SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (KPIX) — A new statue in the heart of San Leandro is drawing mixed feelings.

Marco Cochrane says his 55-foot sculpture — which now stands at Westlake Urban’s San Leandro Tech Campus — is meant as a celebration of the female form, but is not intended to be overtly sexual.

“Women are sexualized in this culture. They live in a world where their entire existence is sexualized, and that’s what I’m directly trying to change,” he said.

Cochrane says he hopes his “Truth is Beauty” sculpture sparks conversations about the mistreatment of women, but so far has largely stirred debate over what constitutes appropriate public art.

“I really liked it. The artist is obviously talented, but I’m just not sure if it’s appropriate for public display,” said one resident.

“She’s not doing anything inappropriate in a sexual way, so I think it’s beautiful — true art,” said another.

The city of San Leandro requires contractors to include public art in new developments, but doesn’t approve the specific artwork.

“There’s many more things you can look at in the statue than nudity,” said San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter.

Cutter says she understands the public’s concern, but adds that true art is rarely uncontroversial.

“I think it’s a very powerful message, and then it’s up to you to decide how it fits in with your family norm,” she said.

The developers of the city’s new tech campus say they hope the sculpture will prove not eye-catching but eye-opening.

“It’s a very beautiful image of a woman expressing her power and her confidence and her strength,” said Westlake Urban Managing Director Gaye Quinn.

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