Bear Spirit.

Half-Man, Half-Bear (Gone)

Field review by the editors.

Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz artist Daniel Stolpe lived on an Indian reservation in the early 1970s. It was then, he said, that he got the idea for Bear Spirit, a hulking statue of a nude man who appears to be dissolving into (or out of) a howling bear. A plaque on the statue claims that it "captures that twilight world where transference of energy takes place" -- and who among us hasn't at times felt grouchy as a grizzly?

It's unclear when Bear Spirit was made, but it became a permanent fixture outside the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History in 1986, after Stolpe had unsuccessfully tried to get the statue into a museum in Oklahoma.

Bear Spirit's dangling dingus appears to have been burnished for luck, a not-uncommon phenomenon among similarly endowed statues. It has also been a target of vandals. In 2013 the Santa Cruz Arts Commission claimed that the statue had deteriorated and should be removed as a safety hazard. Stolpe said he would raise $40,000 to cast Bear Spirit in bronze so that it could stay.

We encountered Bear Spirit in the best of circumstances -- while stumbling along a wooded path in the dark, on our way to see the dead whale in front of the museum.

Half-Man, Half-Bear

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

The statue is back in the trees, behind a beached whale sculpture, next to the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. Between Pilkington and Mott Aves on E. Cliff Drive, across from Seabright Beach.
Nov. 2015: Confirmed gone.

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