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July 08, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, July 08, 2005

Pear's relics Pear's relics (July 08, 2005)

By Katie Vaughn

Many know the public side of Matt Pear. Mayor of Mountain View in 2004 and a member of the city council since 2001, Pear has earned a reputation as a conservative concerned about the impact government decisions will have on the future of the city.

Yet his private life reveals a respect for the past. At his Ortega Street home, he pays homage to the city's -- and his family's -- history through a series of sculptural works he created from antique farm equipment and tools.

"It's part of tying in the past," Pear said. "All of these were working items made into something to use in the future."

Pear grew up on the Peninsula, attending Los Altos High School and later Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering and a master's in business, respectively. His brother and parents still live nearby, and he recently settled a dispute with other family members over rights to his home and ownership of several other nearby parcels.

Pear resides on farmland his family has owned since the late 1800s. On the original 20-acre parcel, his relatives grew apricots, corn and tomatoes until 1967 and cherries through 1974. When Pear made it his home in 1981, the farm's one-story house was in bad shape.

"This house was abandoned, basically ready for demolition," Pear said. "I started redoing things."

The majority of Pear's land is now uncultivated, with tall grass growing amongst crumbling farm buildings and rusting equipment. But Pear has turned his yard into something of an oasis. A rock pathway leads from the street past lush grass and trees to a patio area set amid tall bamboo shoots, fruit trees and vines. Sitting at his tree-shaded patio table, he can hear the relaxing sound of running water.

"It's a way of taking a very small backyard to Tahiti or wherever you want to be," he said of his arrangements.

Tucked within the foliage are nearly a dozen rustic sculptures Pear has made over the years. Inspired by the large landscape bells popular in Big Sur, Pear has crafted bells, fountains, outdoor torches and more out of old iron tools, horse tack and pieces of farm equipment.

To create a sculpture, Pear simply scours his land for objects, then lays the pieces out into a design and welds them together. This process itself is a connection to Pear's past, as his father taught him to weld when he was a child, and generations of his family used the technique to fix broken farm equipment.

As Pear's materials date back decades, they boast a rusty, aged aesthetic. Each piece is an eclectic individual, composed of various items found throughout the farm. For instance, a long bell's main component comes from an old oxygen cylinder with its bottom cut off, while embellishments take the form of hay rake spikes, an irrigation valve and the back end of a tractor.

A fountain, in contrast, is the combination of a turn-of-the-century hand pump and the bottom of a smudge pot, a old farming item that could be warmed to keep nearby trees from freezing. Pear outfitted the form with a motor and hoses to make it a running fountain.

Pear said he tinkers on his sculptures whenever he gets the chance. Depending on his schedule, he can complete a piece in a single weekend or work on one over the course of several months. He said the hobby has been a soothing task during his time in public service.

"I find it as a great getaway," he said. "I can escape all other issues."

However, Pear also appreciates farm relics in their original form. In a corner of his backyard, he has set an old plow from the early 1900s. Bent from a run-in with a prune tree, the piece serves as a visual reminder of the city's evolution from a farming community to a center of high technology.

"Mountain View has come a long way since the 1960s," he said. "It was a very agricultural blue-collar town, and now it's a town of professionals."
@email:E-mail Katie Vaughn at [email protected]


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