Category Archives: Sculpture

Brazen ~ CSUS

A pair of legs. Warrior’s legs, I’m sure. Maybe Roman by the look of the sandals. Brazen. This is a piece by Stephen Kaltenbach that stands near the entrance of the CSUS Alumni Center.

“Only a playful ease with unease can yield pleasure and possibly reveal the complexity of an artist whose work is elusive on principle” ~ Elaine O’Brien (1).




The Art:

This piece was created with faux cast iron and stands 5’6″ tall. It is “part of a series that utilizes the destruction and repair and reconstruction of Kaltenbach’s favorite sculpture from the history of art as metaphor for the temporal aspect of both civilization and human experience” (2).




The Artist:

Sacramento is home to several of Kaltenbach’s works including, Time to Cast Away Stones, Matter Contemplates Spirit, and Peace. Kaltenbach graduated from UCD, lived in New York where he was part of the avant-garde scene there in the late 1960s, and then moved to Sacramento to teach art at CSUS from 1970-2005 (1).

Going against the grain of the art scene of keeping artistic ideas to one’s self, Kaltenbach intentionally sought to keep his creativity open and looked for opportunities to share artistic possibility with others (3). He called this spreading of influence Casual Art, and Teach Art was one element of the Casual Art principle that his role at CSUS gave him a platform to embody (4).






Title: Brazen
Artist: Stephen J. Kaltenbach (
Date: 1988
Media: Faux cast iron
Location: CSUS Alumni Center

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Desert Cactus and Prickly Pear ~ 23rd & K Alley

A midtown business facing a problem with frequent intruders on their back patio hired artists rather than security guards to resolve the situation. Artist Margaret Arnold painted and Steve Cook sculpted, and together they secured the 30-foot-wide patio wall behind Western Properties office (1).





The Art:
The three-sided mural was painted by Arnold and is called, “Desert Cactus” (2). The sculptures of cacti and aloe vera on top of the wall are called “Prickly Pear” and were made by Cook from rebar, nails, and saw-blades (3). Cook also built a secure metal door to replace the original wooden gate (4).




The Artists:

Arnold lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills. She paints primarily in oils but also does illustration and craftwork such as beaded skulls and decorated eggs (5, 6). You can see a large gallery of her works on her website, Russ Andris has a great photo of Arnold painting the mural.

Cook lives in Clarksburg and creates metal sculptures and furniture from cast off objects (7). You can see a gallery of his works on his webpage, and his facebook page.





Title: Desert Cactus & Prickly Pear
Artist: Margaret Arnold and Steve Cook
Date: 2013
Media: paint & rebar, nails, and saw-blades
Location: Alley side of 2318 K

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Arttake: Arty Bike Racks, Part 3

Sacramento is full of clever bike racks, so today’s arttake is a follow-up to my first two posts on arty bike racks from Feb 2011 and July 2011. The red rack pictured above is the very bike-like bike rack that sits in front of INK Eats & Drinks at 27th & N.



The ice cream cone and sundae shaped sculpted bike racks at Vic’s Ice Cream were well used on this sunny day.







Local artist, Gina Rossi, sculpted this sun inspired bike rack for R U Tan on K between 23rd & 24th.





This rack in front of Paragary’s at 27th & N is called, The Martini Glass, and is also by Rossi. This is part of a series of racks she will be creating for installation throughout midtown. Many unexpected and fun details on this one.










This industrial rack on 23rd Street between I & J looks like a sister to another rack at 25 & I that I posted on last July.





Holiday Inn Ceramic Murals ~ 3rd & K

The clay sculpture murals at the Capitol Plaza Holiday Inn were created by someone but just who remains a mystery. Ceramic artist, Stan Bitters, was one promising lead, but no record was found identifying him as the artist and he himself, via email, stated that he has never done work in Sacramento.

Regardless who created these works, reflections on clay work by Bitters give us insight into the Holiday Inn pieces.

“It’s not about thinking about the clay,” he says. “It’s really getting in there and manipulating it-mashing it and beating it-until it produces some feeling of wonderfulness, something earthy and textural.” (1)

In his book, Environmental Ceramics, Bitters makes a case for incorporating clay into architecture, not just as decoration but as a structural medium.





















Date: 1979 (#)
Media: Clay
Location: Capitol Plaza Holiday Inn on 3rd between J & K

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Sojourner Truth ~ 13th & K

Update August 2014: Through the persistence and effort of community members and SMAC, Sojourner has been restored and is now safely exhibited on the main floor (inside) the Crocker Art Museum.

Update 1/15/13: I am dismayed to report that the Sojourner Truth sculpture was vandalized on 1/6/13. The sculpture was pushed off of the pedestal and broke in pieces on the ground. It is still unclear whether the sculpture can be repaired but Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and others are seeking every avenue to restore this wonderful piece. I’ve included a photo of the broken sculpture at the bottom of this post.

Nearly 7′ tall standing with dignity and a flare of her skirt, this unembellished but powerful sculpture is a testament to the woman who inspired her (1).

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was a former slave who escaped to freedom and became an activist contributing passionately in the fight for abolition and women’s rights (2). Among many other remarkable events of her life she was the first black person to win a court case against a white man (3), and she once bared her breasts in a meeting room to silence accusations that she was a man (accusations likely stemming from her nearly 6′ stature and non-demure manner) (4).

The Artist:

Through her artwork, Elizabeth Catlett (1919-2012) also spent her life fighting injustices against African Americans and women (5). Targeted during the McCarthy era for her politics, she moved to Mexico and for a period of time was denied re-entry into the U.S. (despite being a citizen) (6).

In a clip of the video called, Sculpting the Truth, she says, “I admire things I think are true. I admire things I think are just.” The social implications of her work was always the primary focus of her art:

“I learned how you use your art for the service of people, struggling people, to whom only realism is meaningful.” (7)
“I have always wanted my art to service my people — to reflect us, to relate to us, to stimulate us, to make us aware of our potential.” (8)

Some of her most popular works include: Malcolm Speaks For Us, The Sharecropper, Negro Es Bello, Survivor, Dancing, Two Generations, Black is Beautiful, Latch Key Child, Madonna, The Singing Head, Recycling Nude, and The Seated Woman (9).

At age 95, she completed one of her last sculptures, a life-size bronze sculpture of gospel legend, Mahalia Jackson (10) [Side note: Sacramento is hosting its first production of the highly acclaimed show, Mahalia: A Gospel Musical, through 9/23].

I think Sojourner would be proud to have been sculpted by Catlett, her sister in truth and justice.


Below is the photo of the recently vandalized sculpture (1/15/13).


Title: Sojourner
Artist: Elizabeth Catlett
Date: 1999
Media: Mexican Limestone
Location: 13th & K

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Califia ~ 15th & Capitol

“Califia, the Amazon-like Queen of the mythical island, Califia, after which California was named…. She is a spirit of cleansing, mending, and healing. She is Yemaja, an African Diaspora deity who is the mother of all waters and the spirit of patient creativity.”

A beautiful description by artist, Alison Sarr, of the striking figure of Califia which stands in the foyer of the state building at 15th & Capitol.

The Art:

She is carved from wood and covered in oxidized copper. Califia herself stands about 6′ tall and with about 7′ of bundles on her head, the entire sculpture is nearly 14′ (1).

Susan Shelton also created a piece inspired by Queen Califia and, although it is a different piece entirely, her description of the piece resonates with my experience of Saar’s:

I see Califia [as]… encompassing powerful and enduring symbols for us as Californians—Abundance; Strength; Life; Beauty; Diversity, Stewardship–and I was inspired to create a piece that would be an expression of my love of California, and a tribute to the mythical Queen who graced our state with her name [and her blessings]…. Implicit in the celebration of these gifts, I think, is the admonishment for Stewardship. Queen Califia calls on us to nurture and protect our extraordinary California.(2)

The Artist:

Saar grew up in the LA area in a family full of art; her mother is a well-known artist, her father an art conservator, and her sisters are all artists (3). Her work is often highly personal, a critic once called her work ‘banal’ and in this video, she agrees with the critique saying that she is a mom and drives a van and her work often speaks to what she is struggling with in life, but, she says, “that doesn’t mean that we who are banal can’t have really truthful and wonderful experiences”. This quote by art critic Rebecca Epstein describes the nature of Saar’s work:

“Saar juggles themes of personal and cultural identity as she fashions various sizes of female bodies (often her own) that are buoyant with story while solid in stance. [Her works often embody a] balance of strength and tenderness, in form and idea.” (4)

Title: Califia
Artist: Alison Saar
Date: 2003
Media: Wood and Copper
Location: 1500 Capitol (inside the foyer)

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State of California Sculpture Plaza ~ 7th/8th & N/O

Who knew? Sacramento has a small but interesting sculpture terrace in a promising but seemingly under-used park that sits hidden atop the roof of a subterranean building on the square block bordered by 7th/8th and N/O Streets. Three of five original sculptures (all installed between 1978-1986) remain in the park surrounded by grassy slopes, trees, and benches.

Untitled, Egalmah Series (1984)

The sculpture above was created by Guy Dill as a part of his Egalmah series and is inspired by the shapes of the Japanese Torii gate (1). The name Egalmah comes from The Epic of Gilgamesh and means Great Temple (2).

Untitled (1978)

This painted steel piece was created by John Mason in 1978 (3). Mason is known for his “focus and steady investigation of mathematical concepts relating to rotation, symmetry, and modules” (4).

Daimaru VIII, Open Circle Series (1984)

Michael Todd created this in 1984 as part of his Open Circle Series and it is titled, Daimaru VIII (5). In Japanese, Daimaru means “large circle” (6). Another site quotes Todd describing the symbolism of the circle in this series:

In Zen brush-painting, the circle is a master’s problem. It represents everything and nothing, and in so doing, the universe. The Daimaru series in my attempt to master the problem and express my small part in the cosmos (7).

Emit Time (1986)

The online Smithsonian Institution Collection documents two other sculptures that once lived in this park but are no longer there. Emit Time was a water sculpture created by Eric Orr in 1986. The Smithsonian site describes the piece as:

two triangular bronze columns placed very close together. Water is pumped to the top and then slowly moves back down the piece in a continuous movement of water and light. The base is a rock basin which catches the running water and recirculates it. The title Emit is “Time” spelled backwards and, according to the artist, the piece alludes to the relationship between nature and water (8).

Boulder (1983)

Boulder was an abstract geometric sculpture by Bruce Johnson in 1983 and apparently you could actually step inside this piece to touch the hanging boulder (10).

A large cubic Cor-Ten steel frame with smoked tempered glass panels, tilted on its corner. Inside the frame a large granite boulder is suspended on a steel rod connected with an eye on the upper end so that the boulder swings slightly in the wind (11).

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California Vietnam Veterans Memorial ~ Capitol Park

The blossoms of the weeping cherry trees that encircle the 3,750 square-foot California Vietnam Veterans Memorial bloom in April and are reportedly a spectacular site (1). The memorial sits just beyond the rose garden in the north-east corner of Capitol Park, near 15th Street and Capitol Avenue. At the entrance to the memorial, visitors first pass the bronze map of South Vietnam.

Dedicated on December 10, 1988 the memorial was created by artist, Rolf Kriken, and was built entirely from over 2 million dollars donated for the project (2).

A quote from a still-photo video on YouTube describes the circular design and symbolism of the memorial:

“The memorial is designed in the shape of broken concentric circles to serve as a reflection on life. The innermost circle is shaped like a drum with entrances at the four points of the compass.”(3)

Pylons at the entrances are capped with electric lamps lit 24-hours a day to represent Eternal Flames.

Twenty-two black granite panels in the outer ring are engraved with the names of the 5,822 Californians who died or are MIA in the Vietnam war. The names are arranged by hometown. The day before Memorial day, an event called The Reading of the Names occurs where volunteers read all of the names on the memorial walls (4). Reading the nearly 6,000 names takes about 12 hours.

Lt. Gregory Hodson died in 1964 when his plane crashed into the South China Sea but, because the plane crashed just a few miles outside of the war zone, his name is not on this wall. It was the policy of the Navy to only put names on the wall of soldiers killed inside the war zone. Recently, through the 20-year effort of his good friend, Bill Spurgin, a memorial stone for Lt. Gregory was laid near the memorial (5).

The inside walls are full relief bronze sculptures of scenes from daily life during the war from the perspective of combat soldiers, nurses, and POWs. The California Vietnam Veterans Memorial was the first Vietnam war memorial to honor the experience and service of POWs and nurses (6). To get a felt sense of walking through the memorial, click to watch this video.

Flanking each relief are six bronze panels (three on each side); most depicting images from well-known photographs from the war. The US Constitution and Bill of Rights are also depicted in their own panels.

A bronze sculpture of a combat soldier reading a letter from his parents sits in the inner circle of the memorial.

Next to the soldier sits a bronze plaque with a poem by Major Michael O’Donnell.

The poem reads:
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own.
And in that time
where men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind.

Memorials to honor the men and women who serve are important places for recognition, reflection, respect, and remembering. Another vitally important aspect of honoring those who serve is providing support services for their return to civilian life, particularly those who have been injured physically and emotionally.

My uncle, Kirk Bauer, served in Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star twice, a Metal of Valor, and a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in combat. In 1969 he was a noncommissioned officer in the Army and lost his leg in a grenade explosion. During his rehabilitation, fellow veterans approached him proposing to they teach him to ski. Kirk went on to become a member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team and was one of the first disabled ski instructors to be fully certified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America. This small group of veterans skiing in the 1960s was the beginning of what would later become Disabled Sports USA (DS/USA), the organization Kirk has headed since 1982.

DS/USA is a “nationwide sports rehabilitation programs that is available to anyone with a permanent disability. Activities include winter skiing, water sports, summer and winter competitions, fitness and special sports events.” (7). Their programs are available to anyone, but they actively support wounded veterans returning from war to get them involved in the programs and this can make all the difference in the wounded soldier’s life. A quote on the DS/USA website from a veteran says it all:

When I’m out there boarding, it takes the disability away from my mind and gives me more of my freedom. I’m enjoying what I went to protect. I owe a lot to this program. It saved my life. (8)

If you would like to make a donation to DS/USA, you can click here to use their secure online form.

Title: California Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Artist: Rolf Kriken (
Date: 1988
Media: Bronze
Location: Capital Park

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Jumperman ~ 6th & Q

18′ tall Jumperman looks poised to take flight from the entrance of classical modern design building at 600 Q that was once the Dunn Edwards Paint Store (1). The metal sculpture was created by Michael Riegel in 2003 (2).

Riegel has a series of sculptures of similar human figures (3). He has also worked with metals to create mechanical toys and functional tools including sewing scissors at the Smithsonian American Art Museum he created from forged and annealed carbon steel stock: “The curved handles show his interest in Japanese weapons and armor from the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries” (4).

Originally built in 1966, the building at 600 Q was redeveloped in 2003 now houses Nacht & Lewis Architects (5). The redevelopment team sought to maintain the classic modern design while transforming it into a dynamic building.

Respecting the strengths and character of the original building, the design team sought to inject a new image and vitality to the structure. Previously painted concrete block was sandblasted and left exposed for its rich natural color and texture. Exterior pilasters at the two-story glass storefronts were painted purple to accentuate their rhythm. Perforated steel plate guardrails painted bright yellow and a metal sculpture enliven the corner entry to the building. Finally, LED lighting was introduced behind a refurbished exterior signage band to illuminate the north and west facades and the streets below.(6)

Several public art pieces by Riegel can be found around the Sacramento area including:

Title: Jumperman
Artist: Michael Riegel (
Date: 2003
Media: Metal
Location: 6th & Q

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Fountain: Time to Cast Away Stones ~ 13th & K

Where are we going?
What have we wrought?
How are we loving?
What have we thought?

These questions, carved in stone and almost hidden under a cascade of water, are posed by Stephen Kaltenbach on his fountain sculpture at the Sacramento Convention Center called, Time to Cast Away Stones. In my image below, you can just begin to make out the carved letters underneath the flow of water, but you can find some wonderful photos of the fountain that reveal the carved letters of the questions quite clearly on Jenny Arnez’s blog post.

Time to Cast Away Stones consists of two rectangular sculptured stone fountains, separated by a walkway and running lengthwise along the center divider of 13th Street at the entrance to the Sacramento Convention Center. The sculptures evoke Greek or Roman ruins and you can find many interesting images within the seeming jumble of stone.

Kaltenbach graduated from UCD, lived in New York where he was part of the avant-garde scene there in the late 1960s, and then moved to Sacramento to teach art at CSUS from 1970-2005 (1).

In an article titled, “Altered Ego: Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer on Stephen Kaltenbach,” the author describes some of the most interesting aspects of Kaltenbach’s uniqueness as an artist:

Kaltenbach followed what he called a protocol of opposites: Whenever he identified a structurally embedded social pattern of behavior among his artist peers, he would do the opposite….Against the idea that artists should exhibit only in galleries and museums, he committed “Street Works” in public, often unannounced, using graffiti stamps, stencils, sidewalk plaques, and disguises. (2)

Going against the grain of the art scene of keeping artistic ideas to one’s self, Kaltenbach intentionally sought to keep his creativity open and looked for opportunities to share artistic possibility with others (3). He called this spreading of influence Casual Art, and Teach Art was one element of the Casual Art principle that his role at CSUS gave him a platform to embody (4).

From November 1968 and December 1969, Kaltenbach anonymously placed twelve full-page ads, which he referred to as ‘micro-manifestos’ in Artforum. The ads consisted of mostly white-space with a few words in plain type-face text centered on the page. You can see an example of one called, “Become a legend,” in the lower right corner of this image. The twelve micro-manifestos (5):

ART WORKS. (Nov 1968)
ART. (Jan 1969)
Tell a lie. (Feb 1969)
Start a rumor. (March 1969)
Perpetrate a hoax. (April 1969)
Build a reputation. (May 1969)
Become a legend. (Summer 1969)
Teach Art. (Sept 1969)
Smoke. (Oct 1969)
Trip. (Nov 1969)
You are me. (Dec 1969)

Kaltenbach called these “a passing on of possibilities” (6) and, in an article titled, “The Enigma of Stephen Kaltenbach, Almost,” Elaine O’Brien writes:

“These ads are word-works that specifically targeted the Artforum audience and effectively participated in the conceptualist project to multiply doubt, but they also evidence Kaltenbach’s heightening ironic self-objectification.” (7)

Since his move from New York, his public pieces became more populist in a move that could draw criticism from the conceptual art world (8). Even as he created more realist and decorative pieces, his conceptual work continued, and as this quote describes, the strangeness of his living in both the populist and conceptual worlds is just another element of his artistic uniqueness:

“Only a playful ease with unease can yield pleasure and possibly reveal the complexity of an artist whose work is elusive on principle” (9).

Three other public art pieces by Kaltenbach can be found in Sacramento (10):

The Crocker Art Museum’s permanent collection is home to an extraordinary painting by Kaltenbach. “Portrait of My Father” is a photo-realistic painting with a scrim effect that brings an ethereal quality that “gives a little barrier between you and the subject, and the chromatic spectrum makes you think about things that are unseen but there” (11).

Portrait of My Father, Crocker Art Museum online catalog

The Crocker describes the work as a “testament to life, love, and the loss confronting us all.” (12). In the seven years he worked with this painting, he experienced personal transformation through grief of his father’s death and dark psychedelic trips to finding faith and becoming a Christian (13).

On her blog, Jenny Arnez describes how the title of this piece reminds her of a biblical quote and the affect it had on her:

“Time to Castaway Stones” brings to mind Ecclesiastes 3:5. The New King James version says, “A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” The sculpture causes me to think and question not only our society’s actions but my own daily choices as well.(14)

Although I’m not familiar with the biblical reference, I had a similar experience in terms of reflecting on the four questions Kaltenbach poses for us:

Where are we going?
What have we wrought?
How are we loving?
What have we thought?

Title: Time to Cast Away Stones
Artist: Stephen J. Kaltenbach (
Date: 1999
Media: Cast Cement
Location: Sacramento Convention Center, 13th & K

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(14) (