Category Archives: 1980’s

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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This is your city without public art

This is your city without public art.

This is your city with public art.

Any questions?

The temporary removal of 1,488 enameled tiles for a restoration project of the iconic public art mural, The Way Home, gives us a unique opportunity to see our streets as they would be if they were empty of public art. Thankfully the cleaned and restored tiles will be reinstalled later this summer, because that vast expanse of concrete is a bleak sight.

The Way Home, mural by Fred Ball

The contrast between the wall with and without art is striking, and the Delta landscape inspired mural becomes an even more welcome site against the alternative of bare nothingness. Another compelling invitation to pay deeper attention to the public art that is available all over our city and how it infuses our streets with creativity and imagination.

“Public art is one of the most important elements that define a city. Public installations echo the character and spirit of a time and place, and remind us all of the imperative need for creativity and imagination in our daily lives.”
~ Carole Feuerman

Title: The Way Home
Artist: Fred Uhl Ball
Date: 1980
Media: Enameled copper tiles
Location: Western façade of the parking garage on Third and L Streets

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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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von Schlegell Fountain ~ 300 Capitol Mall

What a happy surprise to pass Capitol Mall recently and find water cascading down the fountain at 3rd and Capitol. This 45′ tall stainless steel fountain was created by David von Schlegell whose sculptures were very influenced by his time as an aircraft engineer for the US Air Force (1). Nautical and aeronautical themes emerged frequently in his work (2).

Unfortunately, most times I pass this way the fountain sits dry. It seems they turn it on when the school buses come full of children touring the Captiol area and the Crocker Art Museum. But you can experience the rush of the water over steel and the waves shimmering throughout the pool below in this video:

While it is sad to see the fountain dry most of the time, it is appropriate they turn it on when the children visit since a plaque nearby states that the fountain is dedicated to the Children of Sacramento:

The inspirational quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel (a leading Jewish theologian and philosopher of the 20th Century) reads:

…remember that the meaning of life is to build a life as if it were a work of art. Start working on this great work of art called your own existence. Remember the importance of self-discipline, study the great sources of wisdom and remember that life is a celebration…

One of von Schlegell’s most well-known pieces is a fountain in Pennsylvania, Voyage of Ulysses. The Philadelphia Public Art site has one of the best photos I could find of the fountain. The Fairmount Park Art Association site describes the relationship between the fountain and it’s title:

In basic shape Voyage of Ulysses resembles a sail, but its appearance varies from different perspectives. Hydraulic engineers helped von Schlegell produce dramatic effects with the water that tumbles against and through the sculpture. In the sculpture’s “duality of stillness and motion”—the fixed metal form combined with the flowing water—von Schlegell hoped that viewers would gain a sense of humankind’s “driving toward the unknown,” as Ulysses did in his storm-tossed ship.(3)

The fountain sits at the entrance of an 18-story office building sometime referred to as ‘Emerald Towers’ and sometimes as the ‘West America Bank Building’. In 2010, this building received LEED Gold certification which is the second-highest rating for existing buildings from the U.S. Green Building Council. (4). Local photographer, Phil Kampel, has a great photo of the fountain and building together.

One of the most interesting angles to view the fountain is from directly behind it. Note that it is designed so that the water that flows down on the other side of the main tower cannot be seen from this angle:

Unfortunately, my thumb made it into the photo without my realizing it. I’ve returned to re-take this photo but have yet to find the water running again.

Sac Metro Arts online gallery of Art in Public Places has a wonderful night view photo of the fountain.

A photo of the fountain reflected in the aqua-silver glass of the building:

Title: (untitled)
Artist: David Von Schlegell
Date: 1985
Media: Stainless Steel
Location: 300 Capitol Mall

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(1) Google Books preview page

Butterfield Horse ~ 5th and J

The spirit of an old Air Stream trailer lives in this sculpture by Deborah Butterfield. Butterfield has focused her 40-year career mastering her one subject, horses, and she primarily creates her pieces with found objects like wood and scrap metal. Her sculpture at 5th & J was installed in 1983 and is crafted out of aluminum originally from an Air Stream trailer (1).

Butterfield has used a progression materials over the years. In the early years it was natural materials like mud, clay and sticks over metal armatures. Then metal and industrial materials. Recently, she has created her works in wood and organic materials and then has them cast in bronze from those materials. This helps the sculptures withstand time while still maintaining the organic look of the original materials. (2) The casting process is very involved; taking twenty people two to three months to cast a large horse. (3)

Butterfield’s sculptures began as metaphorical self-portraits that she describes on MMoCA Collects as “one step removed from the specificity of Deborah Butterfield.” (4). Over time, her sculptures became less self-portrait and more of an exploration of the horse (5).

Unlike many horse sculptures, Butterfield’s pieces never include a rider or any other human form (6). Neither are her horses executing dramatic movements such as rearing or galloping. Her exploration is of a different nature:

My work is not so overtly about movement. My horses’ gestures are really quite quiet, because real horses move so much better than I could pretend to make things move. For the pieces I make, the gesture is really more within the body, it’s like an internalized gesture, which is more about the content, the state of mind or of being at a given instant. And so it’s more like a painting … the gesture and the movement is all pretty much contained within the body. – Deborah Butterfield (7)


Judy Wagonfeld describes Butterfield’s pieces as “paradoxes of power and vulnerability” which captures them perfectly. This paradox also expresses the nature of horses themselves. Part of Butterfield’s intention for her art is to draw us into an empathic experience where we project ourselves into the form of the horse.

With a Google Image search on her name you can explore an array of her pieces and find which are the easiest for you to project yourself into. As a horse lover all of my life, I’m drawn to many of her pieces, but Vermillion is one that captured my attention the most. It would be an interesting self-exploration to use these horse sculptures to explore different aspects of one’s self.

This particular sculpture came to Sacramento through the efforts of Phil Hitchcock. Hitchcock is an art professor and director of the University Library Gallery at Sac State. He is active in the local Sacramento arts world; serving as a judge for juried shows and as an Advisor for the non-profit Sacramento Art History Consortium.

Hitchcock has also served as an art consultant for local developers (8). An art ltd article describes him “a conduit between builders and artists” in Sacramento. There are ordinances in Sacramento for developers to install public art, but Hitchcock says “90 percent of all the work I have done is for developers who are not required to put one stick of art in their buildings. . . .There are so many of them… and they do it with a real passion.” (9)

Sacramento is home to several horse sculptures (10). Sean Guerrero’s chrome sculpture, Spirit, appeared in SacPedArt last year.

Described by Charles Johnson as “stupendous kitsch”, it is a dramatically different expression of the horse from Butterfield’s (11).

Title: Untitled
Artist: Deborah Butterfield
Date: 1983
Media: Aluminum (scrap metal from an Air Stream trailer)
Location: 5th & J

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Double L Eccentric Gyratory II ~ 6th & J

“Choreography of Steel” is how Architectural Digest describes the work of kinetic sculptor George Rickey (1). This piece by Rickey on the corner of 6th & J can appear, at first glance, to be another simple, static sculpture on a downtown corner. Stop and look for a moment, and you will see that the two L shapes move and shift in interesting ways:

The movement is slow, smooth, and unpredictable, evoking a mesmerizing quality of repetition and variation that captivates the viewer; like ocean waves, Rickey’s work responds to the same natural laws of motion and captivates the viewer with the same mesmerizing quality of repetition and variation. (Within the Poetry of Motion: George Rickey on

Watch the Double L move in this 3 minute video I filmed with my iPhone the other day:

Rickey built his sculptures to allow movement using gravity and two principles of physics, equilibrium and momentum (rather than motor-driven movement). With his use of counterweights and bearings, the sculptures move with the wind and the pull of gravity. He used specific design elements, such as the compound pendulum and weighting internally with lead, to achieve the movement patterns he desired. (2)

An article by Carla Hanzal in quotes Rickey describing the shapes and movement he sought in creating his art:

“The object was for the pieces to perform as they could, and I wanted their movement to be slow, unhampered, deliberate—but at the same time unpredictable. As for shape, I wanted only the most ordinary shapes—simple, hackneyed, geometrical. I wanted whatever eloquence there was to come out of the performance of the piece—never out of the shape itself.” (3)

Rickey, quoted in Hanzal’s article, describes the element of “planned indeterminacy” (chance) in his work, and he relates that to how our understanding of the dimensions of reality have expanded over history:

The artist notes that in the year of his birth “there were only three dimensions: after Einstein, time became a fourth. If there is a fifth, surely it is chance…Planned indeterminacy is a component of my sculpture.” (4)

Sacramento’s Double L Eccentric Gyratory has several identical siblings in other cities including:

Cleavland has one-upped all of these cities with its TRIPLE L Eccentric Gyratory (click link to see a photo of the Triple L).

The best way to experience the amazing array of Rickey’s kinetic sculptures is through videos and images; click below to explore via Google Images and YouTube:

Title: Double L Eccentric Gyratory II
Artist: George Rickey
Date: 1981
Media: Steel
Location: 6th & J

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Metamorphosis Mural ~ 4th & K

The Metamorphosis mural was created by Centro de Artistas Chicanos and is located on the eastern façade of the Downtown Plaza parking lot at 3rd & L. The mural was a collaborative effort by artists Juanishi Orosco, Stan Pidilla, Esteban Villa and others in the Centro de Artistas Chicano (1).

Each section of Metamorphosis represents a layer of energy. I assume each of the four sections of this mural measure 6’x62′; the same measurements as the “sister” mural installed on the opposite side of the parking lot called, The Way Home.

The bottom section of Metamorphosis represents the core of life (2). The central image of this section is an elder man sitting deep in the earth surrounded by crystals and holding a glowing inner flame (also, notice the hand prints on the stone arch above him):

The next section of the mural represents the energy of the earth (3), and this turtle swims along the left edge of the section:

The right edge of the earth section is an image called the Sacred Circle: (4)

The lower left figures in the image are the Guardians of the Sacred Circle and here is a detail of the guardians as the painting was being created:

Guardians of the Sacred Circle, California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, Dept of Special Collections

The third section of the mural represents technology, innovation, and impact on the earth, and the top layer represents the heavens and universe (5). Russ Andris has a photo gallery with good detail images of those sections here and here.

The central image of the mural is a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly representing change and renewal of life (6). In the center of the center of the mural is this powerful figure flanked by drummers:

Here is a wonderful detail of the figure’s face from the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, Dept of Special Collections:

California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, Dept of Special Collections

The Centro de Artistas Chicano was created in 1972 by the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF), which is an art collective based here in Sacramento, California. I’ll write a dedicated post about the RCAF in the coming weeks, but here is a small introduction.

The RCAF is best known for its mural paintings, poster art production, and individual artistic contributions. The artists of the Centro have produced murals and exhibitions from San Diego to Seattle. RCAF is significant as a collective that has maintained a forty year history of engaging communities to express their Chicano culture, history and struggle for equal rights (7).

In an KVIE interview with several members of RCAF, Stan Padilla describes how the Metamorphosis mural was seen as a departure from the tradition of Chicano muralists that painted primarily political, economic, and social themes. He explains that Metamorphosis is a “human mural” and tells a story about a beautiful moment that occurred on the day they finished the mural.

[The mural] was very controversial at the time, not only from the arts people but from our own people saying, “Where are all the power fists? Where are all the huelga birds? We’re not used to this new kind of art. This does not seem to be a Chicano mural.” Well we said we believe this to be a human mural. I remember the day we finished the mural, when we finished the big butterfly, that there was an actual Tiger Swallowtail butterfly that flew from the top of Macy’s building and it flew right to the center of the painted butterfly. It almost genuflected, it paused there, and then it flew away. We all watched it. And we knew we had completed it. And it was confirmed what we had done (8).

Title: Metamorphosis
Artist: Juanishi Orosco, Stan Pidilla, Esteban Villa and The Centro de Artistas Chicano (9)
Date: 1980
Media: Airbrushed and brushwork on concrete (10)
Location: Eastern façade of the parking garage on Third and L Streets

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The Way Home ~ 3rd & L

This beautiful mural, called The Way Home, is installed on the side of a parking garage along the western edge of downtown Sacramento and visible travelling along highway 5. Fred Uhl Ball created the mural using enameled copper tiles between 1977 and 1980 (1).  Views of the Sacramento River Delta inspired this work, and the range of colors “reflect the [Delta’s] various seasons” (2).

The Way Home, mural by Fred Ball

There are four sections to the mural, each 6’ x 62’, and a total of 1,488 tiles (3). The tiles give quite a different impression from a distance than they do close up.

The Enamel Arts Foundation displays wonderful photos of some of Ball’s other works here, Fred Ball Enamels.

Exploring the background of this mural, I learned about Ball’s compelling history:

Considered one of the most innovative artists working in the 20th-century enameling field, Fred Uhl Ball (1945 – 1985) was the son of the prominent ceramist F. Carlton Ball (1911 – 1992) and the designer, graphic artist, enamelist, and educator Kathryn Uhl Ball (1910 – 2000). After studying traditional enameling techniques with his mother, the precocious young artist exhibited his work and gave enameling demonstrations at the California State Fair in Sacramento in 1956 when he was only eleven. Two years later in 1958, in response to his mother’s urging to make something he’d never seen before, Ball began his lifelong commitment to experimentation.

Viewed as highly unorthodox at the time, his experimental techniques which include torch firing, metal collage, conscious exploration of fire scale, and use of liquid enamel materials, are admired today by many of the foremost leaders in the field. He is one of the artists credited with transforming enameling from its traditional association with small size and preciousness, to an epic scale consistent with Postwar painting and sculpture (4).

Ball died quite young from injuries after he was attacked leaving his downtown loft studio one night. Here is a personal account from a friend and fellow artist, Lois Franke Warren:

One September evening in 1985, he was leaving his studio–a loft space in downtown Sacramento when he was attacked by thugs, robbed, pushed down the stairs, and left unconscious on the street.  His neck was broken and he was left totally paralyzed.  Taken to the hospital, he was stabilized, but needed to be on a respirator. He could only blink his eyes to communicate. He had several commissions starter for which he had already purchased materials. In the succeeding months, his mother, and a young man who was Fred’s assistant, completed these large jig-saw like works. They would bring the portions they were working on and show them to Fred, asking questions and pointing to  letters. He  would respond with “yes” or “no” blinks… Fred died that December from complications of his injury.  His mother (at age seventy-five and in poor health), with the help of Fred’s assistant, completed all his commissions in the months following his death (5).

The collaboration of Ball’s mother, assistant, and friends, to complete the works he had started prior to being paralyzed is quite moving to me. I have been visually interested in this mural for years. Learning about the artist and his history gives me another way of relating to and respecting this work. Discovering that the images are drawn from the landscape of the delta region was not surprising because I have always been similarly affected by the colors and shapes of that terrain. I’m feeling quite grateful for Ball’s creativity and ability to actualize his art.

Title: The Way Home
Artist: Fred Uhl Ball
Date: 1980
Media: Enameled copper squares
Location: Western façade of the parking garage on Third and L Streets

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