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Letter of the Day: Asawa fountain

  • Cazadero artist Bruce Johnson working on a redwood sculpture. (The Press Democrat, 2000)

Asawa fountain

EDITOR: I offer a different perspective on the Ruth Asawa fountain (“Remembering Ruth Asawa and her marvelous fountain art,” Sunday).

The Santa Rosa City Council appointed a committee of artists and architects to hold a competition for a public art project in the early 1980s. That committee chose Bruce Johnson, an internationally acclaimed sculptor from Cazadero. Relying on their personal tastes, council members withdrew Johnson's prize and ignored the appeals of their own committee. A second committee made up of bureaucrats and politicians chose sculptor Ruth Asawa.

She showed only political artistry when she invited local historians and influential folk (including Gaye LeBaron) to fashion models for her frieze. There were many people, including historians such as myself and one of the people who helped model the frieze, who were disappointed with the results.

Santa Rosa missed an opportunity to own an epic work of art by Johnson who, as is often the case, is better appreciated in other countries than in his own backyard. Instead of a work with real beauty and power, Santa Rosa got a clichéd, sanguine artsy take on local history.

A little bit of cute is fine, but when added to the ubiquitous Peanutalia at every turn, a stroll through downtown Santa Rosa can cause cultural diabetes.

HANNAH CLAYBORN

Jenner

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