Nude in Steel was donated to the City of Palo Alto by the Bicentennial Committee for the enjoyment and benefit of the people of Palo Alto in 1976. The City’s first acquisition of a permanently sited outdoor sculpture, Nude in Steel and a number of other Wehrli artworks were temporarily exhibited in front of the Palo Alto City Hall almost a decade earlier. Installed at its current site in front of Rinconada Library in the 1990s, the sculpture has welcomed generations of library visitors. Often, one might spot a gentle camelia flower left at the feet of the graceful female figure as to celebrate her eternal youth and beauty.
Palo Alto sculptor Hans Wehrli used a welding torch to fashion cold steel into warm, living flesh. Wehrli, born in Switzerland, came to the US in 1949 with the intention of working for Walt Disney. Instead, he traveled across the country for a few years, joined US Army where he was trained in welding, and eventually studied design in Los Angeles and metal sculpting at the San Francisco Art Institute. He worked as publications designer at Stanford University and had an art studio in Palo Alto’s Barron Park he shared with two mechanics. He exhibited widely across the Bay Area and beyond until his death in 1984.
“Welding is like drawing in space. That’s the real essence of welded steel. It’s easy to take off and erase. No other sculpture allows that.” Hans Wehrli