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Wondering about the massive naked woman sculpture in San Francisco? Here’s the story

A sculpture of a reclining woman by artist Marco Cochrane sits on top of scaffolding on 14th Street between South Van Ness and Shotwell streets in San Francisco. | RJ Mickelson/The Standard

A nude sculpture presiding over the Central Freeway in San Francisco has piqued the interest of passersby over the past few months. As it turns out, several people have theories about the naked figure, which lounges atop scaffolding on 14th Street between South Van Ness Avenue and Shotwell Street. 

The word on Reddit is that the wire sculpture was installed in San Francisco after taking a lengthy repose along the dusty Playa at Burning Man last year.

Based on these Redditors’ descriptions, the creator in question appears to be self-taught Northern California artist Marco Cochrane. The artist’s professional website features a photo of a 40-foot sculpture that he created with his then-partner, Julia Whitelaw. “Gaia,” which was constructed from stainless steel rods, bears a striking resemblance to the work of art on 14th Street.

In his artistic statement about “Gaia,” Cochrane explains that he and Whitelaw envisioned the sculpture as an intervention against gender violence. 

“In the past we have praised the behaviors of aggression, dominance, holding territory, fighting, killing, etc.,” the artist wrote, speaking broadly about Western value systems. “We have looked down on the behaviors of mothering, community-based child rearing, protection of children, empathy, breast feeding, an awareness of an other. […] It is time to support the heroism of nurturers.”

Also a longtime Burner, Whitelaw was interviewed for a documentary called Spark: A Burning Man Story in 2013.

Cochrane is a San Francisco-based artist who works out of a studio on Treasure Island, according to SFGate. However, more than one commenter on Reddit claims that the sculpture was built outside of an apartment building in Petaluma in 2019.

The 55-foot-tall "Truth Is Beauty" sculpture by artist Marco Cochrane is photographed in San Leandro in 2016. | Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group via Getty Images

Visitors to Treasure Island may remember another large-scale sculpture by Cochrane that was colloquially known as “the dancing lady statue.” Officially named “Bliss Dance,” the 40-foot figure was first shown at Burning Man in 2010, later installed at Treasure Island until 2015 and now resides at The Park in Las Vegas. 

A similar sculpture, “Truth Is Beauty,” first appeared at the Burn in 2013 and is now permanently installed at the San Leandro Tech Campus—a business park near the San Leandro BART Station. 

Cochrane did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.