Council Rejects Plaza Sculpture


Staring at the sculpture before him, its metal planes jutting up like the quills of an aggravated porcupine, Moorpark City Councilman Chris Evans struggled for words.

Sculptor Michael Watling had proposed that a 20-foot-tall version of the work--designed to look like leaves of a yucca plant or deer grass--stand at the entrance of a new shopping plaza set to open later this month in the Mountain Meadows neighborhood. But Evans had his doubts.

“I don’t think it begins to capture Moorpark,” he mused. “I think this would be lovely in Chicago . . . I personally don’t see it in a neighborhood shopping center.”


In a meeting otherwise filled with talk of road alignments, general plan amendments and zoning violations, Moorpark council members Wednesday briefly ventured into the realm of art criticism. They rejected the sculpture, which was commissioned by builders of the Mountain Meadows Plaza to stand at the corner of Tierra Rejada Road and Mountain Trail Street.

As part of an agreement between the builders and the city, the council had final say over the artwork.

Watling’s sculpture would have consisted of seven thin steel planes fanned out in an arc. The artist, who also teaches horticulture at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, said he wanted the work to reflect the area’s native plants.

But as council members stared at the scale model Watling placed on their dais during the meeting, Councilwoman Debbie Rodgers Teasley worried that the piece might prove an irresistible and dangerous temptation to students at nearby Moorpark High School.

“I can see kids sticking notes on it, climbing on it, falling on it,” she said.

Watling pointed out that the tips of the sculpture’s “leaves” would be about 7 inches wide. “No one could impale themselves on it,” he said. “Art shouldn’t hurt people.”

Only one neighborhood resident spoke up at the meeting. Although Lori Rutter worried that people might be tempted to drape the sculpture with toilet paper, she said she liked the piece.


“I think it’s actually quite stunning,” she said.