Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 1, 2012

17-foot metal mantis says only good things to Kokomo

KOKOMO, Ind. - A 17-foot-tall praying mantis is drawing plenty of art critics in central Indiana while becoming a prominent online voice in this auto industry city.

The metal sculpture is variously called "freaky," "weird," "hilarious" and "creepy" by commenters on Facebook. More than one have questioned whether it belongs at such a prominent downtown location as the intersection of Washington and Sycamore streets.

But the mantis' Facebook persona, known as "KokoMantis," responds positively: "… (N)o matter how they feel about me, I am extremely happy that they are here. They're awesome, and their voice is important. Also, I have no idea why I'm here, either."

Actually, the privately funded mantis was the idea of developer Scott Pitcher and the work of metal fabricator Scott Little. It's fashioned from repurposed metal - a torso and wings from World War II pontoons and legs from the arms of stop lights. Little also made a spider sculpture, stationed just a few blocks away.

The mantis landed Oct. 5, and came alive, at least online, a few weeks later. "KokoMantis" talks to about 1,100 Facebook followers, making a few dozen posts a day that cover a range of topics. Commenters compliment and criticize the sculpture, which also has spawned at least three Twitter accounts.

On Facebook, the human behind the mantis won't reveal her identity, only to say she is a writer from Kokomo who lives out of state and took it upon herself to create the virtual character. She calls the character silly and tries to turn kindness on even her sharpest critics.

One woman, for example, posted that the sculpture is a “stupid looking" waste of money that would better serve as an advertisement for a pest control company.

The KokoMantis responded: “Sorry you think I’m stupid looking. I guess I’m lucky looks don’t really matter that much in this world. But I really think you’re pretty great.”

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Details for this story were reported by the Kokomo Tribune.

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