Andre Miripolsky’s Monterey “historama”


the wave

In 2011 the Monterey History and Art Association commissioned two works from Los Angeles artist Andre Miripolsky, “The Wave” and the Monterey “historama”. The re-opening of the former Maritime Museum as the new Museum of Monterey introduced the pieces to the public.

First is a 275 foot mural on the fence surrounding MoM. Endless waves, in various shades of blue, dance across the space as though moved by the tides and the winds, just as they do on the nearby bay. “The Wave” brings color and visual interest to an otherwise monochromatic Custom House Plaza.

The “historama” was initially installed on an interior gallery wall as a fifty foot mural . A whimsical representation of the people and history of Monterey, the Salinas Valley and Monterey County, the “historama” explodes in vivid colors.

For much of 2012 the “historama” was hidden away, its valuable wall space required by other major museum exhibits. Fortunately, MoM recently hung the “historama” in four panels outside the museum where visitors and passers-by can once again savor Andre Miripolsky’s history and humor.


Miripolsky’s first panel – at present displayed on MoM’s rear patio – depicts the native Rumsien people, the arrival of the Spanish explorers, the founding of the mission colony and the later growth under Mexico. We see the American take-over and California statehood. We see fishing, whaling, abalone diving and the coming of the railroad and the luxurious Hotel Del Monte. The waves of Monterey Bay imitate the style of “The Wave” surrounding the building.

Miripolsky roguishly affixes a crown of thorns to the head of a sea otter in recognition of the near extermination of the otter in the quest for its valuable pelt. He highlights the beauty and natural wonders of the region, and recognizes the contributions of several ethnic populations to the commercial success of Monterey.

Mirapolsky3Under the deck in front of the museum is the second panel, an homage to the Salinas Valley. Major agricultural growers and shippers are featured at the top, above John Steinbeck’s boyhood home and other landmark Salinas buildings. The myriad crops that make Salinas the “Salad Bowl of the World” – grapes, berries, lettuce, row crops – are bountiful, bursting with freshness, flavor and color.

And what of the labor force that harvests the bonanza? Miripolsky presents a lone figure, an anonymous brown-skinned man toiling in the fields – and another glimpse of his rascal nature. As the campesino fills shipping cartons with produce bound for your super market, another kind of “green gold” lies at his feet – a bag of money, representing the four billion dollar agricultural economy derived from the Salinas Valley’s fertile soil. To the laborer’s right is the eagle symbol of the United Farm Workers, recognition of the struggle for fair pay and safe working conditions.

Mirapolsky9Panel three is also displayed in the patio, a tribute to the world famous events that lure millions of annual visitors to the Monterey Peninsula. At the top is the Monterey County Fairgrounds, home of the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, with Jimi Hendrix’s guitar on fire. Now in its 56th year the Monterey Jazz Festival is represented, as is the Carmel Bach Festival. Golf is big, thanks to Bing Crosby and his “Clambake” – now the AT&T ProAm.

The Monterey Peninsula owns starring roles in more than 200 films, and Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca hosts major automobile and motorcycle races. The Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach is one of several events during “car week”, when collectors spend millions of dollars for rare automobiles of all ages, makes and models. Marathon races, bicycle races, art and literature all lure devotees to the area.

Mirapolsky6Panel number four – hanging in front of MoM – is number one redux, depicting Monterey in the 20th and 21st Centuries. The military is prominent, as is education and government. The bay – still represented in “the wave” motif – is no longer exploited for its resources, but rather enjoyed for surfing, diving and kayaking . We see the shops and restaurants and famous sites that draw the tourists to the region. We no longer hunt  the whales, we watch the whales.

Miripolsky cannot resist one last bit of fun. In panel four the sea otter now sports a crown of jewels, befitting its modern status as the best loved and most recognized symbol of the Monterey Bay region.

Located in the Stanton Center facing Customhouse Plaza, the Museum of Monterey is worth a visit. MoM successfully showcases thought provoking art and valuable artifacts , and represents the history of Monterey in interesting and entertaining ways. At least take time to enjoy Andres Miripolsky’s “historama”.

Photos courtesy of the author.


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