Treasured, Giant Female Nude Sculpture in Disrepair

Originally built for Burning Man, "Bliss Dance" is rusting away on Treasure Island

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    NEWSLETTERS

    What is possibly the largest female nude sculpture in the country is in danger of rusting away.

    The towering 45-foot statue of a shapely woman poised on one leg with arms outstretched was originally built to withstand the blowing sand at annual art and music festival Burning Man, held in the Nevada desert.

    Now the sculpture, dubbed Bliss Dance, is on display on Treasure Island, the man-made former naval base in the middle of San Francisco Bay, where the salt air is eating away at her.

    Built by artist Marco Cochrane for the 2010 iteration of Burning Man, the 7,000-pound Bliss Dance was installed on Treasure Island in May 2011 at the behest of the city of San Francisco, which owns the island and is the process of redeveloping the 535-acre piece of land.

    Rust Eating Away at 45-foot Treasure Island Statue

    [BAY] Rust Eating Away at 45-foot Treasure Island Statue
    Since artist Marco Cochrane first installed his sculpture Bliss Dance on the Treasure Island's great lawns more than two years ago, rust has been slowly gnawing away at her steel skeleton. Cochrane is now trying to raise the money to weather coat the sculpture. NBC Bay Area's Joe Rosato Jr. reports.

    Since then, the figure has drawn countless visitors who stand in her shadow, photographing her graceful frame while attempting to imitate her lithe pose.

    The piece was the first public art installation on the island since it was built in to host the 1939-40 World's Fair.

    The sculpture, made of steel rods and balls and covered in metal mesh, was initially intended to be a temporary installation, but Bliss Dance has become so beloved that authorities have repeatedly extended her stay.

    For now, she's allowed to stay until November, but she needs some help before that.

    Cochrane, pictured at right, is currently raising funds to try to weatherproof Bliss Dance, which is filled with lights and glows at night. He and his crew need $16,000 by Jan. 10, and as of Friday, they had about $11,500 with five days to go.

    "The problem is, she's rusting, and her lights are getting messed with by all this rain," Cochrane said in a video made for the Kickstarter fundraising campaign.

    "She needs tender loving care and a whole ‘lotta treatment," states the campaign's web page.
    Cochrane plans to climb inside the statue and remove the rust with wire brushes and paint a weather-proof coating on the metal.

    The sculpture is spotted with reddish dots where rusty water has poured out from the interior onto the exterior stainless-steel mesh.

    "When we built this, we didn't have timr to paint this or do anything about the rust," Cochrane said. "We thought it was only going to stay up for six months. … We really need to fix this."

    The director of the Treasure Island Authority, which oversees the property, said she hopes the sprawling steel ambassador will remain on the island, at least until the island undergoes a mass redevelopment in the coming years.

    Public art expert Liesel Fenner of Washington-based Americans for the Arts said that the temporary nature of Bliss Dance may be part of her charm.

    "When statues, sculptures, representation works become permanent parts of civic plazas and the like, we forget we're there," said Fenner, who is the public art program manager for the nationwide nonprofit. "The fact that it will be there for a distinct amount of time … will make Treasure Island a destination and will add some vibrancy."

    She said San Francisco officials should be lauded for approving the short-lived installation.

    Fenner said she had polled some art historian colleagues and they could not think of a similar nude female figure that was larger than Bliss Dance, with the exception of a horizontal land sculpture called Lady of the North in England. Large, ancient depictions of Asian deities may be larger, however, she said.

    "I don't know if it will go down in the art history cannon, but it's commendable that it's temporary because to keep urban space vibrant, we have to keep public art rotating through spaces," Fenner said.

    KNTV's Joe Rosato Jr. contributed to this report.

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