I’m putting finishing touches on a series of creatures for our Sunnyside Conservatory Menagerie project for final approval from the San Francisco Arts Commission before they are cast in bronze. The Conservatory building and grounds are currently under thorough renovation, and the creatures will be permanently installed over the summer as a complement to the original, exotic flora planted by the original owner, W.A. Merrals over 100 years ago.
Merrals was a Victorian-era mining engineer and inventor of international repute who invented a gas engine, a ventilation system for the New York City subway system, and the “Merrals Safety Aeroplane”, a bamboo-framed balloon powered by four gas engines of his own design.
The concept behind our menagerie is to complement the Victorian sense of wonder and discovery by suggesting plausible creatures that might inhabit the gardens surrounding the building. The result is a series of four creatures hybridized from actual fauna associated with the native origins of the plantings. I took the liberty of making references to our own pets, and have made the sculptures in the guise of a fictional, forensic anthropologist, over the past six weeks.
Photos: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.