When Harold L. Pastorius, Jr., a multi-media artist and the first president of the Sawdust Festival, married teacher Kay Watts, he presented his bride with a painted self-portrait. Titled “Love me for a 100 Years,” it shows a bearded, intense-eyed man outlined in light paint on a greenish background.
Twenty-one years after his death, it is a treasure that his widow is sharing with the public as part of his artistic legacy and evidence that, even though she remarried and is now known as Kay Pastorius-Waller, she abides by her first husband’s wish. Currently the painting is on display at the festival in what is known as the “Old Timer’s Booth,” she said.
She returned to California to help celebrate the Sawdust’s 50th anniversary and also to donate a Pastorius sculpture, “Star Locator.”
She arrived from Atawhai, New Zealand, where she and her second husband, Joe Waller, operate a bed and breakfast. She is also on a separate mission to find out the fate of a monumental Pastorius sculpture, “Passport,” which has also been misidentified by another name, “Portal,” explained Waller. A different Pastorius sculpture by that name belongs to a private Palm Desert collector.
The mystery lies in the disappearance of “Passport” from the former Amberdon Plaza, at 1833 Alton Parkway, in Irvine. “We are offering a reward if some light can be shed on this art world tragedy,” said Waller.
Installed in 1984 on private property as a piece of public art, it was a 28 foot, 3,000 pound steel sculpture that was listed as missing in 2015, according to K.M. Williamson, president of Public Art in Public Places Project, based in Claremont. Then its bright yellow coat of paint earned it the moniker “Yellow Banana” according to a 1987 LA Times article. The same source states that its main function was to guide the public to the entrance, which otherwise was hard to find at the all-black glass building.
Williamson said that “Passport” had been removed by an unidentified property owner for paint repair, but was not re-installed and that current property owners have no record of the sculpture’s history or fate.
“We have found this unfortunate scenario not uncommon across Southern California and the U.S.,” Williamson said. “Although so many public assets have been lost in this manner throughout the decades, we are certainly amid a renaissance of public art appreciation and conservation.”
A Pastorius fountain and a sculpture installation at the Northgate development in Phoenix, Ariz., suffered a similar fate. Fabricated in 1988 for a commercial or residential development that never came to fruition, the fountain was gradually dismantled and the installation “Eagles Flight” vandalized and eventually demolished, with the site still unoccupied.
Sixteen years ago, Pastorius-Waller took a small model of “Passport” to New Zealand, which she is now donating to the Laguna Art Museum for its permanent collection. “I am hoping that the public will have a chance to see Hal’s artistic and also his engineering skills,” she said. Upwardly curvilinear, the piece rests on a square base but culminates in a triangle. “People always wondered how he did that,” she recalled.
Even though Pastorius was firmly entrenched in the Laguna art scene since the 1960s, there are no public art works by him here, save for the “Mother and Child sculpture at Laguna Presbyterian Church on Second Street, explained Waller.
That’s about to change. In collaboration with the Festival of Arts, the city will install his “Bulk Head,” at the bus station for a three-year exhibit. The installation salutes the Sawdust on its 50th birthday and Pastorius as its first president. He also served on the Arts Commission and the Orange County Arts Alliance.
Pastorius was also known as an active promoter of public art. He has as many as 12 works in various sites in Brea, several pieces in Paramount City, Palm Springs and Palm Desert and elsewhere in the U.S.
But, he was also an enthusiastic boater, and in 1992 he and Kay decided to follow that passion by taking the Spice Sea on a 10-year world cruise. The cruise lasted but a year as Pastorius developed a brain tumor and died in 1995.
Once asked how he evolved into a metal sculptor, he answered: “My paintings were becoming smaller and smaller and the frames kept getting larger. When I framed a 16×16 painting into a six-foot frame, my wife bought me some welding equipment.”