Moments in Time

Sausalito Historical Society Newsletter - Summer 2014

A Taste of Al Sybrian - 1924-2007

 The most recent Sausalito Historical Society exhibit displays eclectic works of Al Sybrian, a local sculptor best known for his Sea Lion, a realistic representation of the one of the Bay Area's free-spirited marine mammals. The bronze statue "lives" in the tidal waters off South Bridgeway where its naturalistic profile is included in scenic photographs of the San Francisco skyline and enjoyed by regular waterfront walkers.
  The exhibit, which will be on display until March 2015, opened in April immediately following a presentation at the library of the newly published book,
The Sea Lion and the Sculptor - The Tale of a Vagabond Bohemian Artist (2013). The hardback, limited edition book {approximately 8 1/2 x 11 inches} was designed by Barbara Geisler of Sausalito and written by Terence Clarke of San Francisco under the guidance of Executive Editor and Publisher Bill Kirsch of Sausalito.
  At the time of Sybrian's death in 2007, his estate consisted of 12 large boxes of his writings, drawings, photographs and correspondence. Before he died, he entrusted two of his closest friends, Michael Rice and Bill Kirsch, with the task of going through the materials and deciding if there was anything there of value.
  The exhibit and the book are the result of many years of dedicated work by Bill and Felicity Kirsch and writer Terrence Clarke to organize the contents of the those boxes into a coherent collection for Al's friends, many of whom live out of California, and for free-spirited artists everywhere.
  Active fund raising under the umbrella of the Sausalito Arts Association {founded in 1966 to benefit art projects in Sausalito} accompanied every phase of the book project. A community of Sausalito merchants, restaurateurs, artists and friends gave generously to insure publication of the high quality first printing.
  Al himself had given little thought to his legacy beyond not throwing things away. "He spent his artistic life with desire for fame or money." Bill Kirsch writes.
  "To my knowledge , Al's work was never shown in galleries or museums. He gave most of his art to his friends, many of whom have passed away or moved. For this reason, little is known about some of the pieces shown in the book. Sometimes only a photograph exists"
  Sybrian earned the title "vagabond bohemian artist" by virtue of his nonmaterialistic lifestyle. {he never owned a car, a television or a house} and the priority he gave---above all else---to his creative process. "One must be prepared for creativity  because in the making of a vegetable garden the pleasure is more in the preparation and nutruring than in the mature carrot." he wrote. "In sculpture, it is the same thing,"
  He was a profoundly serious artist concerned about what he should do with his talent. "What spirituality I have. "he wrote in a 1994 letter, "is concerned in the meditative process called carving, which is of course also and act of love."
  Insistent on working in his own way, Sybrian once responded to an ad in the
San Francisco Chronicle  for a monumental sculptor with the admonition "... you had better be quite certain of your theme or themes because once set, the sculpture must not be tampered with. You must determine whether or not you want strong, singing work or weak kneed, uncontroversial, decorative stuff."

Article in this Newsletter were written by Margaret Badger


[ Historical Society Newsletter - Al Sybrian page 2 ]