DALLAS — Something fishy is going on in Downtown Dallas.
A mysterious statue claiming to portray 1800s Dallas pioneer Sarah Horton Cockrell was placed in Pioneer Park Cemetery near the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center at around 10:30 a.m. on Monday. (Convention center security guards themselves discovered the guerilla installation later in the day, but were able to pinpoint its arrival after reviewing camera footage of the park.)
The statue was placed on the same concrete slab that once sat beneath the 65-foot-tall Confederate War Memorial that the city removed from the park in June 2020.
A plaque, which accompanied the new statue, claimed that it was the work of an anonymous Dallas artist named Solomon, and a donation to the City of Dallas by the late local oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens.
A notable Dallas historical figure worthy of her own distinction, Cockrell -- depicted in the statue with the body of a human female and the head of an octopus -- was born in Virginia in 1819 and moved to Dallas with her family in 1844. Known as "Dallas' first capitalist," she was involved in numerous economic and technological advances in the city, including a suspension bridge that crossed the Trinity River.
The plaque beneath the new statue apparently representing her makes note of this -- among other points.
"If Sarah Horton Cockrell did encounter Dallas's true namesake on her 33rd brthday [sic], how did she walk away with her selfhood in tact [sic]?" the statue's plaque read. "Why her? Why that night at that crossing of that particular bend of the Trinity? The facts paint little in the way of an answer: afterwards she declined to sleep, wanderng [sic] the darkened city she largely owned, inventing new ways to profit from thresholds. Was her wealth then hers by fate or by compulsion? Maybe our city's love/hate relationship with tolls was born that night, rippling out beyond the levies of her destiny. Her Trinity Toll Bridge still calling in Sarah's debts on another plane, a taller, more enduring memorial than any our city's other daughters have built. If so, well, hail Sarah, daughter of unnameable monarchs, hand commanding the pursuit of eternty [sic]."
The Cockrell statue's plaque included a few additional features -- including a misspelling of Dallas as "D'llas" beneath the city logo in its bottom corner, and a series of Cistercian monk numerals representing a Google Voice phone number that plays a cryptic and vague recording when dialed.
This is not the first time a curious art piece of this ilk has suddenly appeared in Downtown Dallas.
In October of 2019, a similar statue -- also apparently made by the same Solomon artist -- was mysteriously installed along a stretch of road beneath the convention center. That piece, which was removed almost as quickly as it appeared, claimed that City of Dallas founder John Neely Bryan was part cephalopod. (More intrigue followed.)
The 2019 statue depicting Bryan boasted a similarly worded (and often misspelled) plaque about his life, and also claimed Dallas was a "shared delusion."
Upon its removal, the Bryan statue was taken into storage by the City of Dallas' Office of Arts and Culture.
The Cockrell statue faced a similarly fast removal because, as the security guards who surrounded it in the morning noted, its arrival was "unauthorized."
By early Monday evening, the statue -- which had been screwed into the concrete beneath it -- had been pulled from the site.
As for who was behind placing the statue in the park? The security guards said they aren't sure. They said the footage they'd seen showed four people placing it there, but also said their camera's viewpoint was partially blocked by a curtain.
So, for the time being, the culprits' identities remain a mystery.
This is a (possibly) developing story. It has also been updated to reflect that the statue has been removed.