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The $40k Turd Flush

scripps turd.jpg
‘Okeanus,’ by sculptor William Tucker, cost $200,000 to build ... and $40,000 to hide.
(COREY LEVITAN)

“Local Lore” gathers stories about La Jolla, and/or told by La Jollans, that are so bizarre, they’re barely believable, yet hold up to scrutiny.

It once cost $40,000 to remove a sculpture, commissioned for $200,000, because it resembled a gigantic bowel movement. “Okeanos” was installed in front of Scripps Green Hospital in 1988 by British modern-art sculptor William Tucker.

The 13-foot, 3,500-pound bronze sculpture was intended to resemble an ocean wave, its title referring to Oceanus, Greek god of the sea. At the time, art historians heralded it. Writing in the New York Times, Michael Brenson said it captures our attention through its physical presence and holds it by mirroring currents and impulses within our bodies.”

According to hospital staff and patients, however, “Okeanus” only mirrored one current/impulse within our bodies. They dubbed it the “Scripps turd,” a nickname that stuck hard and caught on with virtually all La Jollans. It became an embarrassment.

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On Dec. 8, 2001, the sculpture was moved to the less-conspicuous corner of John Jay Hopkins Drive and General Atomics Court, in front of a portion of the Scripps Research Institute (now Scripps Research) that in 2015 was named after philanthropist Helen L. Dorris.

“I’ve been trying to get rid of that thing for years,” La Jolla philanthropist Edythe Henderson Scripps told the San Diego Union-Tribune after she donated the $40,000 to move it. “I’m certainly glad to see it go.”

— If you live or work in La Jolla and have a truly bizarre story you would like considered for “Local Lore,” e-mail clevitan@lajollalight.com


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