Artist threatens legal action over Palo Alto's decision to remove sculpture

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- A battle over public art has stirred up some thoughtful conversation among residents in Palo Alto. Some say an egg-shaped sculpture downtown needs to be removed, but the artist is now fighting back.

"Artists work hard in every art piece giving it full life," says Adriana Varella, one of the co-creators of Digital DNA, a 7-foot-tall art piece at Lytton Plaza.

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The sculpture, which speaks to the impact of technology on our society, was installed in 2005 and made with re-purposed computer parts including circuit boards and fiberglass. Yet after numerous repairs over the years, the so-called "egg" is slated for removal from the city's collection, following a vote by the city's public art commission last fall.

"It's absolutely an attraction," says Palo Alto resident Ruth Robertson, who organized an online petition to keep the sculpture in its current place. "I've seen many people from many countries (visit), I've seen a lot of little kids, too, they just embrace it."

According to a city staff report, the deteriorating sculpture has become too expensive to maintain.

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"It's a reflection of something that has faded over time, that has not stood and weathered well," says Leland Levy, former Palo Alto mayor. "It's not what Silicon Valley is."

City officials have given Varella until Feb. 23 to take back the sculpture at no charge. They'll consider putting it up for sale if she doesn't claim it by the deadline.

"It's not a discussion about the validity of the artwork, or an attack on the artist," said Elise DeMarzo, Palo Alto's public art program manager. "It's really about the flawed materials that were used to create the piece."

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Varella says she is now considering legal action against the city.

"We as artists trust and rely on anyone who decides to buy or take any of our art pieces to take care of them until the end," said Varella.
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