Of Snick and Steinbeck
P.G. cartoonist restores his muse.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
J ohn Steinbeck is looking a little haggard these days: His bronze skin is cracked, his fragile arms cobwebbed and his noble face slathered in a clear lacquer.
“He’s got writer’s stigmata,” Pacific Grove visitor Bruce Dunn declares, contemplating the author’s weathered statue at 222 Central Ave. “His brains are oozing out of his head.”
Luckily, the monument has a new caretaker. On March 22, P.G. political satirist Snick Farkas and six friends hacked the 600-pound sculpture of concrete, putty, plaster and metal into eight pieces and transported it to Farkas’ garage, where he plans a full-scale restoration.
“I used to make fun of it because it’s the ugliest piece of crap I’ve ever seen,” Farkas says. “Now it’s something of an icon, and I want to save it.”
In 1994 Farkas, a pop artist who works at a P.G. vacuum store, debuted a comic strip in which the statue is hit by lightning and grows to “hideous proportions” to become the “Colossus of Gold,” who rambles through the coastal town of “Specific Groove” lampooning its public figures. Farkas posts the cartoon at Gene’s Barbershop and www.93950.com/cog, and occasionally performs it at P.G. City Council meetings.
The house, meanwhile, has its own backstory, as Farkas’ partner and P.G. historian Esther Trosow chronicles on www.93950.com.
Steinbeck’s grandmother, Elizabeth Hamilton, lived at the cottage from 1915 until her death in 1918. About 20 years later Steinbeck built an addition to the house, where it’s believed he did much of his writing.
In the late 1960s, around the time of Steinbeck’s death, Richard Andolsen bought the home, and—latching on to Steinbeck’s interest in Camelot mythology—launched the John Steinbeck Arthurian Society Museum.
By all accounts, Andolsen was an eccentric who considered himself a mystical conduit into Steinbeck’s spirituality. Visitors to the house were treated to a tour of Steinbeck relics and a lengthy video on the author’s life, narrated by Andolsen himself. The gold-tone Steinbeck statue in the front yard became a local landmark, thanks more to its oddity than its artistic merit.
P.G. artist Jesse Corsaut, who created the Steinbeck bust at the Monterey Conference Center, says he was the original designer of Andolsen’s infamous statue. He shared his 12-inch study of Steinbeck with Andolsen in the mid-’90s, he says, with the understanding that it would be turned into a life-sized bronze cast on Cannery Row.
“He raised some money and put it in his own pocket, and then he copied my study in that plaster thing and stuck it in his front yard,” Corsaut says. “It’s so amateurish-looking that it’s almost a caricature of what I did.”
Andolsen died in 2007, just shy of his 80th birthday. The rickety house was sold complete with Arthurian-themed stained-glass windows, a plaster lion’s head rearing from a stone wall, and the 6-foot-2-inch statue looming on a concrete pedestal in the front yard.
New owner Susan Skorich is hoping to turn the place into less of a museum and more of a home—and that means getting rid of the golden Steinbeck. “I wanted to give it to someone who would appreciate it,” she says.
The restored statue will go in a secluded part of Farkas’ garden, where, Trosow jokes, “It’ll offend the least amount of neighbors.”