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nude lecture about Bennie Bufano
by in SF
Thursday Jun 12th, 2008 6:15 PM
.... in Fish Wharf area ....
Here's an update on my work by the Benny Bufano statue of Saint Francis des Varennes at Beach/Taylor at Fisherman's Wharf. In May, I was arrested 3 times (including a few hours at 850 Bryant). I call it martyrdom-lite. In each case, the DA's office immediately discharged the citations, because unless there is lewd conduct, a jury would have to consider my conduct at the same level as the conduct of a person who is clothed. In other words, the citations are deservedly non prosecutable.
I have written very telling letters on the illegal police harassment, filed at the Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC), and other legal procedures. The police for now are giving me a bye.

For what it is worth,
we tend to forget even with all the police harassment
that the majority of the public supports our work.

None of the Wharf merchants within eye shot have a problem with my being there. In fact, a few are very supportive.

Now that I have achieved my right to be at Taylor and Beach,
there is the issue of what to do with it.
I have been standing there from about noon to 2pm with a sign saying, "2:00 Lecture."
This is to take away the creepiness of
"Why is this person just hanging out there?"

Now that the police are no longer a major issue, the first big problem with that approach is that I am kind of a softy. Standing still, I am only good long term for a wind-chill temperature above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
That's a windy corner and section of town. The other big issue is that's currently a walk-through block of people heading somewhere else and not interested in being engaged, so there is little dialog on what I am doing.
Agreed my being out there speaks for itself
and is spreading the message,
but it's still kind of a "Bushman" type of performance.

So, I have elected to change what I am doing
at Beach and Taylor.

At 2:00 pm, I am going to give
a lecture on Benny Bufano,
sculptor (1888-1970) of the statue
at that corner, of Saint Francis des Varennes.

Benny Bufano was a pacifist and internationalist.
He was famed for his protest of U.S. entry into World War I
by chopping off his "trigger finger"
and mailing it to Woodrow Wilson.
There many stories attached to Benny about his being a friend of
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, living at Gandhi's ashram [ in India],
getting the San Francisco Art Commission's approval
to build a 200-foot statue (taller than the Statue of Liberty)
of Saint Francis on the top of Twin Peaks,
and his pro-nudist viewpoints and practices.

This statue of Saint Francis des Varennes (near Paris) was worked upon for over 3 years during the late 1920's and has an interesting history up to today. (Who owns it? The Catholic Church or the Longshoreman's Union?) The animation of giving this lecture takes away the temperature issue. This presentation has the added advantage of making my nudism common place instead of unique, which is probably a better idea.

The lecture series will begin 2:00 pm,
by the statue of Saint Francis
at the Southeast corner of Beach and Taylor daily.
Starts Tuesday, June 10, 2008.
Everyone invited.
By donation.

George Davis
(415) 722-2968


[ Comment by Tortuga Bi LIBERTY:
Mailing a body part to the President??!
I wish I had known about Bufano
during the Vietnam anti-draft resistance years
(in the Sixties).
All I did was burn my draft card;
and sit-in at Selective Service..
I coulda been a contendah... }

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Tina Lester
Friday Jun 13th, 2008 2:27 AM
Now that I have achieved my right to be at Taylor and Beach,
there is the issue of what to do with it.
I have been standing there from about noon to 2pm with a sign saying, "2:00 Lecture."
This is to take away the creepiness of
"Why is this person just hanging out there?"
by Tortuga Bi LIBERTY
Saturday Jun 14th, 2008 5:06 PM
Hi Tortuga:

Yesterday, Thursday (12 June 2008),
I did give the nude BUFANO lecture to
3 visiting UC Davis coeds.

they were just
normal walkby tourists
and did not come down from any special referral
or knowledge of the lecture.

They found the presentation
and subject matter fascinating
and a highlight of their visit.
One picked-up a copy of [the book,]
Weapons of Mass Deception.

I'll continue to test the project
through the weekend .....



[ Comments by Tortuga:

(1) George, this is WONDERFUL.
You're learning how to draw a crowd from the passing touriasts!
(And, better yet, females;
because, in the pro-nudity movement, USA 2008,
one woman is worth ten men,
in terms of changing the culture.)

(2) There are techniques,
used by leftist speakers on New York City sidewalks and parks,
for drawing a crowd. Street evangelists also learn such skills.
IF YOU WISH, you could ask me to email you some tips (mostly from my
own experience) on how to work a sidewalk.
One you start doing so,
you'll find what works best for George
(versus me or anyone else).
Starting a street-corner discussion.
or debate, is like making Stone Soup;
it seems impossible, but it's not;
neither is it easy.
(I have some skills here; and I have my little
loudspeaker (remember St Stupid, where I chanted
THIRD TERM FOR BUSH); but I'm busy THRU Monday.

(3) On Monday;
after you finish North Beach / Fish Wharf,
please come to SF Civic Center Plaza, 5pm
(but please keep clothes on at weddings,
until AFTER the Nov. election).

"If the fool will persist in his folly"...
he may gradually get better at it....

by George + TBL
Wednesday Jun 18th, 2008 4:58 PM
text of nude Bufano talk; comments by TBLWednesday, June 18, 2008 11:55 PM
From: "SUN" View contact details To: sfbarea [at], nakity [at], savefreedom [at], "franhattan" Cc: sunfreedom76 [at] yahoo.comBcc: "bc" Fisherman's Wharf Nude Lecture


Hi Tortuga:

Even though this lecture failed to draw enough of an audience to merit continuing, I still consider this a great a conceptual idea and am proud that I tried to make it work. I thought that you would enjoy the content of the lecture.
-- George

Dear George,
The content is good.
Furthermore, I actually know how to draw a tiny crowd
(tho my technigues
aren't foolproof). IF you wanted my advice on how to do so,
or PERHAPS even my help
(I think I could draw a SMALL audience (2 to 5 persons),
using my loud-hailer;
and then hand the mike to you.
But you have NEVER asked me for advice on how to do this.

If I helped, there would be several pre-conditions:
(1) FREE lecture, NOT accepting donations;
(2) Publicize not more than ONE event per month, well in advance;
not daily;
and stick to the publicized date, rain or shine;
Advice is free of strings, IF you ever ask.
But my actual participation would have strings.

I did lots of stump speaking in the 60s,
often representing local chapter of IWW.

Anyway-- good speech;
but very little salesmanship
{which Australians call "presentation".

BY THE WAY, hardly any local SF voters are paying attention
to election of several SF SUPES in November 2008
(overshadowed by Obama/McCain, and by same-sex issuues.
I wish Wolf + Chicken would re-launch the
2007 candidates collaborative...



Nude Lecture 2008 –
Benny Bufano, sculptor/artist, 1888-1970
and his statue, Saint Francis des Varennes –

delivered onsite at the corner of Beach and Taylor ,
Fisherman’s Wharf,
San Francisco

(Due to a lack of interested parties,
lecture was only given one time,
over a 6 day period in June 2008.)

“Hi. My name is George Davis. I am a writer and sometimes called the “Naked Yoga Guy” for readily apparent reasons. Right now, I am going to give a talk on the sculptor, Benny Bufano a pacifist, anarchist Catholic and this statue of Saint Francis which he chiseled out of crystallized limestone that you see here.

The common bond between my nudity and Benny Bufano is that Benny used to work in his studio in the nude. Even though he was not a public nudist, he was quoted many times as saying that clothes were a waste of time. This is pretty much all Benny and I have to say on nudity.

(To audience) How many of you are familiar with Saint Francis? (For most, more background on Saint Francis would be useful.)

Saint Francis is the namesake and patron saint of San Francisco . In 1776, the Spanish founded a military base and a Mission San Francisco de Asis (at the still existent Mission Dolores). Prior to the Gold Rush, San Francisco was a trading village of under a thousand people named Yerba Buena (Good Herb). Shortly after the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt where the Americans, who outnumbered the Mexicans in California , seized control of the State. The City’s name was changed to San Francisco .

Saint Francis lived during the High Middle Ages in and around Assissi, Italy . This was in the early 13th century and a period of relative European prosperity when many of the large Cathedrals in Europe were built. After Jesus, Saint Francis is the most famous and written about spiritual Christian figure. To many, including non-Christians, Saint Francis represents the highest evolution of human spiritual development through Christianity. To many, Saint Francis is the Buddha of Christianity. In fact, Benny Bufano lived and sculpted in China for many years. I believe that you can see the Buddha image influence in the face of this statue.

Saint Francis was born into what today would be considered the upper middle class. His father was a prosperous cloth and clothing merchant and Francis (who was named after France where his father attended merchant fairs) was actually a playboy in Assissi. Eventually, Francis became mystically devoted to God and an ascetic. Among the legends of Saint Francis, are his finding God in the face and eyes of a leper. Francis, like many people of his time or any other time, had an abhorrence of lepers. One day, he was riding and saw a leper. He got off his horse and kissed the leper. He felt this was a test of God and that he passed. Thereafter, Francis and the fraternal order of Franciscans which he founded cared for lepers and the poor.

The Franciscans considered themselves a “minor order” because they were not clergy, and made great efforts not to be clergy, but remained subservient to the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church allowed this because it offered people an opportunity of religious asceticism inside of the Church without their going into heretical directions outside. Francis was recognized as a major religious figure in his lifetime. He was made a Saint two years after he died. Shortly after his death, members of the Franciscan order had to be able to read Church Latin, which effectively made the Franciscans a clerical order. To show the co-opting of religious beliefs into institutions, 60 years after Saint Francis’s death, super-ironic to Saint Francis’s beliefs, there was a Franciscan Pope.

Among the other major legends of Francis were his close bonding and communion with animals. There are numerous stories of birds coming to sing with Saint Francis. There is the tale of the wolf of Gubbio. A wolf was terrorizing the villagers of Gubbio by eating their livestock and children. Saint Francis went into the woods and found the wolf. He tamed the wolf and made a pact with the wolf and the village to forget the past. From that point, the villagers left scraps of food for the wolf and the wolf no longer injured the villagers. They lived in peace and harmony for the wolf’s natural lifespan.

Another debatable legend of Saint Francis was his receiving the Stigmata, the final crucifixion wounds of Christ on his hands, feet, and the Roman spear stab by the right ribs.

There are many other tales of Saint Francis, such as a spiritual love for Clare, a wealthy daughter from the merchant class, who found a women’s holy order. There was a pretty “Canticle of Brother Sun, Sister Moon” written by Francis which became the foundation for a Zeffirelli (1972) movie on the subject.

I may have gone in more detail on Saint Francis than I intended, but I am trying to give you a feel on why a modern sculptor would spend three years sculpting this statue and create many other statues of Saint Francis.

Benny Bufano was born in Italy and was one of the youngest of 14 children. His father was a partisan follower of Garibaldi in Italy . He was forced to flee Italy and came to New York City and settled in Greenwich Village . It took several years, but eventually he got his whole family out of Italy .

Benny went to public schools and English became his strongest language for speaking and writing. He showed precocity to art and studied in the studios of the finest sculptors and artists in New York City , including James Frazier who designed the Buffalo Nickel and statue, “End of the Trail.” (The iconic statue of an Indian hunched over on his horse which is also leaning forward.)

Benny came out to San Francisco to create sculptures for the 1914 Panama-Pacific Exposition, which was a huge World’s Fair to show that San Francisco had rebuilt itself from the 1906 Earthquake and Fire and also to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. Benny moved into a San Francisco Chinatown alley and immersed himself in Chinese culture while he was working on Fair projects.

He moved back to New York City and created a working art studio. Benny knew many pacifists and anarchists in the art world. Upon hearing that the United States had entered World War I, Benny became upset and decided to take action. Benny was of draft age. He knew from the history of the American Civil War and news reports of trench warfare in Europe that young men would die by the thousands per hour for some cause or other that eventually would become meaningless. Benny went to his mother’s kitchen, got a meat cleaver and chopped off his trigger finger. He then mailed the finger to then-President Woodrow Wilson with a pacifist note. Benny was hoping that his example would inspire thousands of others to do the same. That never happened.

Benny moved back to San Francisco and found wealthy art patrons. He sculpted statues and bas reliefs. He married an art model and had a child. Benny, in this marriage and a later marriage, proved himself to be a miserable husband and father. His wife and family would always take a subordinate position to his art projects. This is frequently hard on women who expect their husband to think of her and the children as the most important center for his life.

Around 1920, Benny moved to China to study Chinese glazing. He even lived as a peasant artisan for many years. Benny eventually met Doctor Sun Yat-Sen, the man most responsible for beginning the modernization of China . His most famous and symbolic order was to defy the Manchu Dynasty and start the queue (male Chinese ponytail) cutting. Benny posed as a reporter for the first meeting. When he disclosed that he was a sculptor, Benny was hired to make busts of Sun Yat-Sen which were sold for good prices.

Benny returned to San Francisco in the mid-1920’s. He taught sculpture at the San Francisco School of Fine Art, the precursor of the San Francisco Art Institute. He was a maverick. There was a student sculpture contest. It was discovered that Benny had contributed significantly to the winning piece. Benny said, “It was the best sculpture. Wasn’t it?” Benny was fired. Benny then took about 25 students and opened his own school. A wealthy patron gave them studio space, the instructors donated their time, and the students were not charged tuition. The school failed in a year.

Benny got married again to a writer and decided to make an around the world art tour with his new wife. They went to Hawaii , Japan , and China . His wife returned to America . Benny continued on and begged and trekked through the Himalayas . He went to India and moved onto Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram. At the time, Gandhi was participating on a lower caste organizing campaign and was not there. Benny learned to weave his own clothing and for the rest of his life only wore in public a small wardrobe of clothing that he wove himself.

In about 1927, he met a wealthy American dilettante artist who let him use an art studio that he had in Varennes, a suburb of Paris . In a local quarry, Benny found a sizeable piece of crystallized limestone which he worked on for three years, along with other projects including a black marble statue of Saint Francis, but this statue here was his biggest project. He would tell stories of the rigors of working on this statue with a hammer and chisel in an unheated studio in the Parisian winter.

About 1930, Benny decided to return to San Francisco where he remained for the rest of his life. This statue of Saint Francis was put into warehouse storage in France until 1955. That’s 25 years during the Depression and World War II.

In San Francisco during the 1930’s, Benny became popular and famous for sculpting minimalist figures of animals. There used to be a lot of samples here at the Wharf at the Cannery and Aquatic Park , but various building projects moved them. If you have a chance, there is a statue of 3 penguins at Powell and Pine on Nob Hill on the Southwest corner on the retaining wall of the Stanford Court Hotel . Or, although it’s not a Bufano statue, there is statue of sea lions by the Western waterfront side of Pier 39 that is reminiscent of Benny’s style.

In the 1930’s Benny was among the first to use stainless steel as an art medium. There is a noteworthy stainless steel statue of Sun Yat-sen in St. Mary’s Park in Chinatown near California and Grant. Benny proposed building a 200 foot (that’s taller than the Statue of Liberty ) stainless steel statue of Saint Francis on top of Twin Peaks in San Francisco . Originally, the statue was criticized for depicting Saint Francis holding his hands in the air like in an armed robbery and Francis having a goatee. In the late 1930’s the San Francisco Art Commission, by one vote, approved a compromise design. This was still a period, where to recover from the Great Depression; the government was willing to invest in art and art projects. With the coming of World War II, there would be no materials for such a statue and a postwar lack of interest killed the project.

Benny was a hard working and prolific artist. He made other Saint Francis statues. There is an excellent Saint Francis statue at the entrance of Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley with mosaics of birds inlayed on the robe of Saint Francis. He also carved Saint Francis in wood. At San Francisco City College by the Science building there is a Benny Bufano Saint Francis statue with the head made from melted handguns.

Besides sculpting, Benny was a master with mosaics, glazing, Venetian glass murals, and in his later years, mystical surrealistic oil paintings.

In 1955, a wealth patron paid to have this statue shipped to Benny’s studio in Sausalito . Arrangements were made to move the statue to St. Francis Church at Vallejo and Columbus in North Beach , one of the oldest churches in San Francisco .

On the day of the move, Benny asked a friend to bring a pipe to use for fulcrum leverage to move the statue. Benny asked the friend, “Where is the pipe?” The friend pulled out a 6” smoking pipe for herbs. They got the statue moved anyways.

The statue remained on the sidewalk in front of St. Francis Church until 1960 when a new priest took over. Possibly from parishioner complaints, he made efforts to move the statue because he claimed that it blocked the entrance for wedding and funeral processions.

The statue was moved to Oakland where it was placed on a hill overlooking a hospital. The statue was moved to the front of a restaurant in Oakland a few years later. The owner of the restaurant loved the statue and believed that it was good for business. He retired. In 1987, the Longshoremen’s Union , who own this whole block, moved the statue to this location and built this nice, at one time, functioning fountain. The statue as you can see has fallen into neglect. Vandals graffitied the statue several times and all too frequently people just walked by and ignored the statue. Eventually, the Longshoremen fenced off this whole mini-park.

There is a current proposal to move the statue back to St. Francis Church, which is no longer a parish church, but a shrine to St. Francis which is run by the Franciscan order. They have plans and money to build a small piazza in the street in front of the Shrine and place this statue there. Guess what? You guessed it. The Longshoremen’s Union doesn’t want to give this statue an upgraded home. They want to keep it here in this neglected condition. Still, they have had the statue for 21 years.

That’s about all I have to say on Benny Bufano and this statue, Saint Francis des Varennes. I would like to conclude with a short poem by Benny Bufano, who is not noted for writing poetry, but I think shows his artistic versatility.

Truth is neither of Creed nor Race

Truth is not of the Street

Truth is not of the Temple

Truth is neither of Darkness nor of Light

It is the extension of the Soul of Man in His Adventure beyond Reality

I take contributions for this lecture and as an artist, I prefer it’s in the form of my art which are these books. (Point to Naked Yoga and Weapons of Mass Deception.)”

SUN, POB 426937, SF, CA 94142-6937
Freedom until death!