Bufano, the California Coast, and Colma

Peace Obelisk

On the way north to Anchor Bay I passed the tall totem at Timber Cove, just north of Jenner on Highway 1. In the past, when I had seen this sculpture, I thought of it as an odd bit of eccentric art, but now, because I had sketched many of his pieces around the Bay Area, I knew it to be the Italian-American sculptor Benny Bufano’s final masterpiece.

On my return trip south, I knew that I needed to stop and sketch the 93 foot tall obelisk that commands a prominent perch at the Timber Cove Inn in Sonoma County. This missile- like structure was started around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the following seven years it took to finish, saw the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. It seems most fitting that this work is known as the “Peace Obelisk” and “Madonna of Peace”.  An exclamation mark to the end a violent and unsettling decade.
Peace is a continuous theme in Bufano’s work. This is perhaps best illustrated by his piece that is at San Francisco City College, St. Francis of the Guns (1968). The sculpture was created using the metal collected from 2,000 handguns and the mosaic depicts four assassinated leaders: the Kennedy brothers, King, and Lincoln. A true transformation of a weapon of violence to a symbol of peace.



The final sketch is from Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. This is Bufano’s final resting place and it is one of my favorite pieces. He designed his own headstone and the mosaic representing a tree covered in birds, crowned with a sleeping blue cat is the ultimate vision of peace.


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