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[whitespace] Fallon Statue
Hi-Ho Racist, Away! When art causes this much fuss, it's got to be good.

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More Monumental Controversy

UNFORTUNATELY FOR THE city of San Jose, Robert Glen, the Nairobi-based sculptor who fashioned the statue of Thomas Fallon, turns out to have an unusually adept way with words for a visual artist. Although Glen completed the likeness of San Jose's early mayor in 1989, its unveiling had been delayed because of questions about the statue's political correctness. Was Fallon a colonialist? A racist? Did he contribute to the deaths of local peoples?

Last Friday, the statue was officially dedicated at its compromised home in Pellier Park. Attendant protesters made their opinions known with remarks such as, "Go home, European," and "Get back on the Mayflower."

In a letter to Underbelly columnist Eric Carlson, Mr. Glen addressed some of the issues swirling around the statue of Thomas Fallon and Glen's own treatment as the statue's creator. Following are excerpts:

"I have just returned from a trip to South Africa, and so hope that this short note gets to you in time to be of some help. I say short note, because were I to write what I really think of this whole Fallon episode it would take much paper and more time.

"If we were to delve today into the honesty of many of the politicians and leaders (the very word politician reeks of truth bending), we would have little good to write in our history books of present times, and so, looking at the offside of Fallon is a convenient manipulation.

"I was commissioned to carry out the sculpture which I did in good faith for those at the time, who saw fit to honor their principles of history in the form of a monument as a record of a part of the country's heritage. If the history of California differs from that of other areas of the world in its making and markings, then the negatives should have been thought of before taking much of my time, and government and private money.

"It must surely bring into question all the great monuments in the world, as records of the successes of freedom.

"I am not a U.S. citizen and therefore not involved in its politics but am an artist living in East Africa. While the piece may have been born of political feelings of success and continues to raise political heads, I personally carried out the work with art in mind and gave to it the same effort as my Mustangs of Las Colinas, in Irving, Texas. These have been accepted with pride and are, I am flattered to say, enjoyed by many thousands. Moreover, these horses, Andalusian, represent the first modern-day horses which ran wild in North America, escapees from those plundering conquistadors. From the time when Indians and others realized their transport value the rot began. Later, horses that came to the East from Europe aided the fray.

"While it may please some that the sculpture is finally going to be erected, I question the situation and positioning of the piece. I designed the piece and its size to fit the original site and the main viewing angle to be presented to the big avenue approaching it. The height of the base and its length are also critical. All of these details were agreed on on-site by the officials of the redevelopment agency of San Jose. Had I been told of a different site, the piece would have been presented differently and perhaps at a different scale. I would add that at no time have I ever had any communication from city officials to inform me of any changes but have only had various bits of information come to me through numerous newspaper articles and word of mouth. I was also contracted to be on-site for 10 days during installation but am still waiting to be informed of the monument's installation to its present place.

"The sad thing is that I have personally endured a great deal of embarrassment over the years when asked about the erection of the sculpture, and I have had to give a story of why it remains hidden. It reflects badly upon my credibility and has been instrumental in a great loss of business. Due to the events unfolding and the years of anguish, I would like to make a case against the city where a substantial remuneration could be made as it seems that their concern for anything other than money is irrelevant."


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From the September 26-October 2, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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