Venice bares its Robert Graham sculpture

AN odd development for a neighborhood where a bikini with roller blades is standard attire: In 2005, a handful of Venice residents protested plans to erect a nude female torso by Venice artist Robert Graham in the middle of Windward Circle.

Staunch feminists and conservative church leaders formed an unexpected bond in protest. One businesswoman deplored the sculpture as “a shiny sexual object.” And the torso was just too nude for Pastor Steve Weller and his wife, Regina, of Venice Foursquare Church. Regina Weller complained that all would “see her backside” from the church office.

But the city prevailed, and on June 18, the sculpture went up -- landscaping, lighting and dedication are pending. Originally intended to have a metallic surface like the Graham torso on Rodeo Drive, the anodized aluminum figure sports a shiny black finish.

And even the Wellers observe the naked truth: There’s been virtually no public outcry. Says Graham’s studio director, Noriko Fujinami: “Sometimes something becomes huge in people’s minds when it really isn’t.”


-- Diane Haithman