Category Archives: 1970’s

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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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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Shimizu Fountains ~ 700 H

Modeled after Japanese origami forms, two very ’70s metal fountains with large burnt orange pools sit in the North and South plaza entrances to the Sacramento County Administration Building (1). These fountains, and an interior wall sculpture of a similar design, were created by Seiji Shimizu in 1977.

The south plaza fountain is the smaller of the two and measures 8 x 3 x 8 ft.

The north plaza fountain measures 12 x 3 x 6 ft.

Research turned up very little information about these fountains or Shimizu himself. I did find references to two of his other works from Japan.

In 1962, he created a geometrical sculpture that hangs from a skylight at Numazu Culture Center (2).

He also created the baptismal font at the Archdiocese of Tokyo Catholic Tokyo International Center (CTIC). The font is shaped like an open hand. Light falls from the ceiling into the hand, and the list symbolizes the “light of God that leads the faith of the catechumen and shows the abundant grace he is going to receive.” (3)

The wall sculpture inside the main lobby is too tall to capture in a single photo.

Title: (untitled)
Artist: Seiji Shimizu
Date: 1977
Media: Metal
Location: 700 H

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VandenBerge Mural ~ 4th & K

This hand-made glazed-tile mural sits along a wall at the west end of the Downtown Plaza mall, just before the covered walkway leading to Old Sac. The mural was created by local artist, Peter VandenBerge (1).

VandenBerge attended CSUS in 1954, UCD in 1963, and was a graduate student of Robert Arneson (2). He started teaching at CSUS in 1973 and worked there until he retired (3).

From what I saw online, it seems the great body of VandenBerge’s work is in clay sculpture — most often whimsical & eclectic human figures or fruits and vegetables.

Carolina Arts Publication image
Saturday Night at the Movies, circa 1970. ASU Art Museum image
Ace, 2007. Photo: David M. Roth

So this mural might be somewhat unique among his work.

He was part of the California funk ceramics tradition of the ’60s and ’70s which began in San Francisco:

California funk was one of the first ceramics movements to draw influences from counterculture influences like the beat movement and psychedelia while using ceramics to challenge conventional thinking (4).

The funk tradition drew criticism for its non-serious nature:

East Coast critics who were unfamiliar (or else hostile) to the comic spirit of the West Coast Funk tradition . . . wondered aloud if his work was confused. To that the sculptor asks, “Can’t one be serious and funny?” (5)

Independent of what his pieces ‘mean’ or what they evoke, his primary concern in the studio is the simple “pulling and pushing and punching of clay – the physical act of working it to see what I’m going to come up with next.” (6)

Title: (unknown)
Artist: Peter VandenBerge
Date: 1979/1980
Media: Glazed Tiles
Location: 4th & K

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(3) Art in the San Francisco Bay area 1945-1980: an illustrated history, by Thomas Albright