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'Goddess' Statue Damaged by Vandals to Be Repaired

August 06, 1989|ALAN CITRON | Times Staff Writer

The "Goddess of Democracy" statue in Chinatown, destroyed by vandals last week, got a new lease on life Saturday as the artists responsible for the crudely fashioned wood and plastic-foam monument gingerly gathered up its remains and took it in for repairs.

Artist Tom Van Sant, who created the statue, said the goddess will emerge anew after spending about three weeks in the Santa Monica Canyon studios of the Artists Equity Assn.

"We built the first one for only $700, so I'm sure we can repair it for about the same amount of money," Van Sant said. "We may even make it stronger this time."

Ropes Cut

The 1,000-pound statue, perched in front of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Assn. headquarters on Broadway, was a replica of the one erected by Chinese students during mass pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tien An Mien Square in June. The original was destroyed when Chinese troops moved in and crushed the rebellion in a bloody crackdown.

The replica suffered a similar fate Monday when unknown vandals sliced through the ropes that anchored the 23-foot-tall monument to a building and toppled it. The goddess's head was severed in the fall and its foam torso splintered into dozens of pieces.

Van Sant said some pieces may have to be replaced. Early Saturday morning, as he and Charles Sherman, president of the nonprofit Artists Equity Assn., loaded the statue onto the back of a flatbed truck, there remained signs of tension as two passers-by shielded their faces from television cameras and others kept their distance from the recovery work.

Van Sant said many Chinese-Americans fear reprisals against relatives in China. "People are still intimidated," the artist said. "That's why this sculpture is so important."

No one can say where the goddess will go next. It came to Chinatown last month, receiving the red-carpet treatment from Chinatown civic leaders, after city officials evicted it from its Civic Center footbridge perch on grounds that it represented a safety hazard.

May Get New Home

Now a safer location may have to be found. Sherman noted that community leaders in Chinatown will have much to say about the statue's eventual resting place. There was no one from the Chinese-American community on hand Saturday as the statue was carted away, but Sherman said the Chinatown community has been very supportive of the artists' efforts.

Van Sant said he is not surprised that the goddess has had such a turbulent time of it.

"This doesn't feel good," he said. "But it's understandable. We're dealing with a fight over people's rights. So I guess that we have to expect these types of things."

Van Sant hopes to eventually build a more permanent monument to the Chinese uprising. He is seeking $300,000 in private funding for a marble version of the goddess that will be offered to the people of China, though he does not expect the Communist government to accept it.

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