Home Again! Wayward Wyland Dolphins Return

Installation of a sculpture at 484 North Gallery, which initially went awry, returns a familiar profile to Laguna Beach.

A huge crate shipped recently from an airplane hanger in Minden, Nev., was pried open at Laguna Beach’s 484 North Gallery this past Monday to reveal Wyland’s iconic sculpture, “Dolphin Synchronicity,” absent from its native habitat since 2008.

Valued at $159,000 by its owner, the sculpture is again for sale locally after an unusual migratory route led the bronze cetaceans from Laguna Canyon to Wyland’s studio-factory in Oregon, to Nevada and back to a Laguna Beach gallery.

But its re-seller is not Wyland, the environmental marine life artist known for painting whale murals around the world, who first showed the sculpture outside his Laguna Canyon Road gallery. When the gallery closed in 2008, Laguna Beach real estate and computer software developer David Marriner, whose family included some of Laguna’s earliest shopkeepers, purchased the sculpture.

Marriner intended the life-sized likeness of a dolphin family (a male, female and small offspring) to swim in a vertical composition as the focal point for the entry to Dolphin Cove’s Beach Club, a proposed private oceanfront resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The 23-acres of ocean view villas, luxury flats and bungalows were to ring a saltwater pool where the Navy once trained dolphins to detect underwater ordnance.

But a tanked economy put the project on hold, and the dolphins remained in transportation limbo. “I am still hoping that my partners and I can develop the project. We hung on to the property so far,” said Marriner, who nevertheless hopes to sell “Synchronicity,” this time priced at $79,000. Should Dolphin Cove more forward, Wyland would gain another commission, he said.

(Wyland’s website www.wyland.com shows a foot-high edition of “Synchronicity” for $4,505.)

“We decided to show it at the 484 Gallery because of the PCH location where the piece would enjoy the greatest visibility; we want to display it for people to enjoy,” said Marriner who, with his two brothers Norm and Mike, grew up with Bob Kronquist, owner of 484 North Gallery.

He recently installed a concrete pad to hold the 1,800-pound sculpture, which was to form the centerpiece for a fountain. Even so, travail seems to follow the intrepid dolphins. During the installation, a crane lifting the sculpture over a building tipped over, sending the dolphins crashing 10 feet to the sidewalk.

Fortunately, damage is minor and Wyland will make the necessary repairs to a few scratches and a bent fin on location, said Marriner, adding that the damage and repair is covered by insurance.

The Marriner family ranks as one of Laguna’s oldest, with grandfather Richard “Tip” Marriner in 1925 founding Marriner’s Stationary, a fixture on Forest Avenue until 1995.

“I still run into people who wish the store was still there,” said Marriner whose family also lives at Lake Tahoe for part of the year, adding that the store was known for its high-end, custom stationary. “Growing up, I knew all the business owners on Forest Avenue and their children,” he said, adding that all four of his own children were born at what is now Mission Hospital.

His lineage also includes another art colony pioneer. His grandfather Norman Stiles Chamberlain (1887-1961), a plein-air painter and founding member of the Laguna Beach Arts Association that became the Laguna Art Museum, has two paintings displayed in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

Seems fitting that a native releases a native species in its birthplace, at least temporarily.


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