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The Sea Lion And The Sculptor

by Bill Kirsch

“The Sea Lion and the Sculptor” will be a book about the late Al Sybrian, the sculptor who made the sea lion on the waterfront in Sausalito.  It was created in 1957 and has since become the internationally recognized symbol for Sausalito, much the same as the “Little Mermaid” in Copenhagen. 

Al was a creative, soulful, reflective person who recorded his thoughts about himself, life, art and relationships in an insightful, profound and interesting manner.  He exchanged extensive correspondence with his myriad of friends over the decades and meticulously preserved his writings, sketches and photographs in journals. 

Al eventually moved away from Sausalito due to the rising rent costs and he continued to be a prolific sculptor.  One day, he had a car accident on his way to buy art supplies. During the final months of his life he entrusted his friends sculptor Mike Rice and myself with his personal effects and requested they assemble his life’s work in a manner that would benefit his only son Joseph, who was born late in Al’s life. 

We intend to create a photographic book that will include his sculptures, drawings, writing and stories about Al and his friends at a time of artistic renaissance in Sausalito and San Francisco.

Al left a wealth of writings in his journals and a few quotes from them follow:


“Gloom is a bore.  Despair is detestable.  Both are too easy.   Good cheer takes intelligence – or outright idiocy.   Not all idiocy in unbeneficial – not all intelligence is harmful.  As we go down the slide, it would be good to make a final smile or two.   There’s undetermined hope in a smile”


“Time takes and gives.  Keep your ears open to the concept of time as a giver and a receiver.  You give it your life, literally – it gives you the essence of wealth you were intended to have if allowed.  From this point of view, a love affair with time is easily conceivable”


“The poet is a song; a song is never replaced.  Displaced for a while perhaps, but comes back when the breeze swings south.  A song is like water existing on a looping course and absolutely essential – who is it that lives without it?”


“If I had taken the way of the San Bruno tract house and security by rote,  I would never have known Sciocette or Belloc or Kanenson or Jinx or Tashi or Bleeker or Beckman or Berkowitz or Carlson or Mike & Jill or Draper, etc, etc … my treasury of friends and acquaintances – knowing them is undoubtedly the better part of what I am.”


I look forward to the creation of this book, it will be the legacy of Al’s life in words and pictures and a gift to his son Joseph.    An Al Sybrian website will be available soon and we will be sending out a letter inviting people to participate and contribute to the project.  If you are interested or know someone who might be, please contact me at bill@kirschart.com or call 888-3919.       


The Sea Lion and the Sculptor   photographer unknown




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