A new downtown fountain that resembles an Academy Award -- or C-3PO from "Star Wars" -- is turning heads.
The giant fiberglass head sculpture now resides in the fountain basin outside Mechanics Bank near the intersection of Main and Duncan Streets. The oversized golden head has closed eyes and is partially submerged, with the water line at the nose. Water flows out of the top of the head then down the neck and forehead. Created by Bay Area artist Seyed
Alavi, the piece is appropriately titled "Fountain Head."
It is one of two fountain renovations done in a public-private partnership involving the city, the Downtown Business Association and Wells Fargo and Mechanics Banks. The other fountain, outside Wells Fargo, was completed at the end of May by artist group Wowhaus. A mosaic sculpture, it is completely different from the golden head.
The idea for the head came after Alavi visited numerous fountain sites. He decided to create a work that was a focal point, visible not just from the sidewalk but from a passing car as well, Alavi told arts commissioners in February.
Fountains have historically been a center of community life, where people come together and gather water. So he played with the idea that the human head and fountain have been considered sources of wisdom and life, he said. But he also wanted to make sure the sculpture was playful because, nowadays, fountains primarily attract children.
"Kids are the ones
Mostly, he wanted the fountain to be a "placemaker." And the fountain put in last week is definitely causing reactions.
Posts on Facebook about the art have some people calling the sculpture "funky" and championing public art, while others have joked that it looks like the start of a Chia pet. Some have called it scary.
This was on the minds of Art Commissioners in February when they approved the piece.
"My only concern is the public reaction to it," said then Arts Commissioner Suzanne Masella. "I am concerned how the community is going to react to it."
Alavi said while there is deeper meaning, it is also supposed to be humorous.
He has created public art in Emeryville, Sacramento, San Francisco and Kochi City, Japan.
The city used $60,000 from "in-lieu" public art funds to jazz up the two 1970s-era fountains. The in-lieu money comes from developers who choose to pay rather than commission and place public art in the city as required by city ordinances. The additional $30,000 came from the Downtown Business Association and Wells Fargo and Mechanics banks.
Mayor Bob Simmons said the fountains will become downtown destinations.
"I am hopeful that other companies will see the benefits of partnering with the city to support high-quality public art in our downtown," he said in a news release.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.