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She's big, green and the talk of the town in Cloverdale


It's hard to miss the bright green sculpture of the naked woman in downtown Cloverdale and it's doing what art is intended to do — get people talking.

Both loved and hated, "The Listener" continues to spark conversation since it was installed in late spring on a sidewalk along Cloverdale Boulevard.

It's not so much the lack of clothing that's getting attention, but the pose and orientation of the piece.

The rotundity of the somewhat exaggerated backside greets pedestrians walking north on the sidewalk, or drivers turning in and out of Second Street.

It prompts smiles and has even led to pranks, with people dressing the statue with a yarn skirt for a little more modesty.

Some observers think "the green lady" or "big green lady," as she's been dubbed, is in poor taste.

"It's something I wouldn't put in the downtown, especially when you're coming into town. You want to welcome people. You want to make it family-friendly," said Mary Kasprick of Seattle, who was beginning a "mother-daughter weekend" Friday.

"It's right there at your face," she said, wrinkling her nose in the direction of the sculpture.

"It's a little strong," agreed her daughter, Theresa Kasprick of San Francisco.

"It's slightly gross" is how George Wilson, a retired Cloverdale engineer, described the work as he paused next to the piece. "It's slightly offensive."

But the opinion was not unanimous.

"I love her, especially from this angle," said Geyserville businesswoman Gari Jones, as she stood toward the rear of the statue.

"No. 1, she's not perfect. She's thicker, like me. I like that she's not anorexic," she said.

Jones said her two daughters, aged 14 and 19, also like the piece.

"I like that she's looking up, because I'm a Christian and that's where I look," she added.

"The Listener" is part of the Sculpture Trail, sponsored by the Cloverdale Arts Alliance and Geyserville Chamber of Commerce. A selection committee placed 15 sculptures in Cloverdale and nine in nearby Geyserville, with a mission to "embrace sculpture in our daily lives" and interpret art in public-accessible places.

It's on exhibit until early May.

The piece is actually making an encore appearance in Cloverdale. It was part of a show in 2009 across the street from its current location. The rear-end faced City Hall, however, prompting some to question whether there was a political message there, too.

Created by artist M.C. Carolyn of Healdsburg, the Sculpture Trail website describes how the statue "patiently sits waiting for sounds of laughter, joy, music and the magic of the world."

But the sitting position has prompted toilet humor, with someone at one point posting the sign "I'll be out in a minute" next to the sculpture, along with some other antics and graffiti.

People will often stop and pose for photos next to it, said Laurie Kneeland, owner of the nearby Mail Center, Etc., the official sponsor of the green lady.

"What I like most is it's a conversation piece, whether you like her or dislike her. People talk about her constantly," she said, acknowledging "it's true, a lot of the town's people think she's disgusting."

But the piece has its staunch defenders.

"It's nothing vulgar," said Chamber of Commerce chief executive Robin Wilkerson. "It's the human form. She's sitting there, contemplating."

The nine-foot-tall, three-foot-wide statue has a foam core fitted around a welded steel armature. It's painted vivid "auto green," or "the exact color of new leaves in spring," according to the artist's description.

Joyce Mann, who helped organize the sculpture exhibit, acknowledges the strong reactions, but said, "There's more positive energy about the piece than negative."

"It's not like statues in Europe that show every detail," she said.

"I refer to her nudity as blurred. There are particulars she doesn't have," said City Councilwoman Carol Russell, another fan of the artwork.

"I don't see anything sensual, or sexually provocative in her," she said. "She looks like everybody at 60 that I know. Most of us have a muffin top and a derriere a little larger than when we were 20."

"It does make me laugh," said City Councilwoman Mary Ann Brigham. "In this day and age, anything that makes me smile, I'm happy to have around."

(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.)