Untitled (Palo Alto), 1997

Location

California & Birch, Palo Alto, CA 94306, This piece stands on a median along California Ave at Birch St, faced by Jungle Jane by Fred Hunnicutt across the street.

Untitled (Palo Alto) - Po Shu Wang

About the Artwork

This carved cedar tree from Golden Gate Park takes on the form of a colossal, twisting rope, stretching upward until it vanishes into the sky. The sculpture symbolizes three main aspects of the layered history of the local area. First, the Native Ohlone people of this area incorporated knotted strings into their oral storytelling to record events in the tribe’s history. This “rope” hangs from the sky as a monument to forgotten stories while the intact tree roots represent awareness of the original inhabitants of this land. When Spanish Conquistador Don Gaspar de Portola came to this region and encountered a coastal redwood tree with a double trunk, he referred to it as El Palo Alto, meaning “tall stick." Eventually, Anglo-Americans moved out west and settled what is now the California Avenue district as Mayfield. The sculpture resembles a European maypole as an allusion to the town’s name before its incorporation into the city of Palo Alto, named by Leland Stanford for the half of the tree that remains as California’s oldest living landmark in El Palo Alto Park.

About the Artist

Po Shu Wang is a Berkely-based artist who was born in Hong Kong and attended The Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, Italy. He went on to teach art, art history, and Taoism from 1984 – 1992 in Italy and Ireland before becoming a senior lecturer on sculpture at the California College of the Arts in Oakland and San Francisco. He has had public art commissions, group shows, and solo shows around the United States and Europe.

Po Shu Wang and Louise Bertelsen (1973-2013) co-founded Living Lenses, a collaborative and interdisciplinary group whose work ranges from temporary installations to public sculptures and innovative architectural spaces, often situated on university campuses to blend art with science and multi-sensory interaction. Their public artworks incorporate dynamic visitor interactions through elements like kaleidoscopes or various methods of translating movement or text provided by visitors into sound.

Fun Fact

With permission, Po Shu Wang once carved the Vatican's 60-foot Christmas tree into a work of art while at the Academy of Fine Arts in Italy.

Artist Quote

“At this moment, the Rope Motif most importantly symbolizes the collective strength of different strands coming together, as do the many people of different cultural backgrounds that have made their homes within the Palo Alto/Mayfield Area.” Po Shu Wang