The wild world of Petaluma art
“But we haven’t tested them yet,” she added. “Our pet dragon hasn’t had to make the trip yet.”
This ‘dragon’, a large metal sculpture called Rusty, was too heavy and unwieldy for the professional movers who moved the Salvias’ possessions from Brisbane. So she and her husband, Henry, rented a large pickup truck, loaded the three separate pieces that made up the 30-foot-long creature — which resembled an eel as much as it did a dragon — and transported the mighty beast 55 miles to Petaluma.
“I enjoyed driving up 101 with a fairly large dragon head peeking out of the truck cab, while the rest of his body sat in the back, his tail waving over the back bumper,” Salvia said.
Although they were a little nervous about what their new neighbors would say once Rusty was installed, the Salvias consider themselves lucky — the entire neighborhood embraced the dragon immediately.
“We’ve lost count of the number of people who walk by, stop in their car to take a photo, or just tell us how our dragon makes them smile, which makes us smile,” she said.
It was, in fact, a young neighbor who suggested Rusty as a name for the dragon, which had been made in Mexico, and purchased by the Salvias at a sculpture shop in Half Moon Bay Square. Rusty recently moved from the front to the backyard while the Salvias completed what Kathleen calls a “crazy grass killing project,” but she believes the famous beast will soon be back where everyone can enjoy it.
“If we could just claim we made Rusty ourselves, like so many of the talented Petaluma metal artists we’ve seen in town,” Salvia said.
There seem to be a lot of them.
As the Salvias suggest, Rusty is just one of many examples of courtyard sculptures in Petaluma—though not all of them are displayed as prominently as the Salvias’ beloved dragon.
Richard Allen, for example, lives on a semi-remote estate where the main audience for his bizarre sculptures is limited to the objects he finds and his occasional invited guests.
Melinda McCutcheon’s precious metal spider hangs ready to weave a web on the side of her house where, as with many spiders — even large ones like hers — one might have to know of its presence to locate it.
And the antique tractor that Larry Rogers regularly decorates for various holidays is mainly spied on by those who wander down his country lane to visit.
Naturally, other yard art exhibitors hope that as many people as possible will see their creations, even if they are only performed for a month of the year.
Every October, Terry Fraser celebrates the arrival of Dia de los Muertos with a stunning new exhibit he builds and sets up in the courtyard of his Fairview Court home.
“I set up our neighborhood to enjoy it for most of October,” he said. “I usually have a gathering at some point for neighbours, family and friends, but anyone driving by will notice. I make my artwork first, and it usually takes me over a year to produce it, as I’m still a gardener – for 44 years now.” ”
Like the Salvias dragon and McCutcheon’s spider, much of the yard art on display in Petaluma was created by master sculptors
Other pieces were originally built to serve a more utilitarian purpose.
Such is the case with the large anchor in Francesca Smith’s yard, whose husband searched for 30 years to find the right anchor for their home.
His quest ended with a discovery in Monterey that was believed to be a 900-pound chum from a 19th-century sailing ship.
It is now proudly displayed in their home on Banff Road, where the anchor is decorated for various holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas.
Of course, a picture is worth much more than words, so here are several (pictures, that is) to illustrate what we’re talking about.
From the big and can’t-miss to the small and slightly hidden, the beautiful and the quirky, Petaluma Square’s art may inspire you the next time you take a walk through the city.