Category Archives: 2000’s

Spanish Fly Mural ~ 1723 J

Joplin, Hendrix, and Dylan. A simple and compelling mural by local artist, Pete Bettencourt, on the Spanish Fly Hair Garage Salon parking lot wall.




The Art:

Bettencourt’s imagery brings alive the expressive soul of these iconic musicians. The mural looks almost unfinished, and maybe more was planned, regardless, the open form with the use of few strong borders or edges draws me into the piece with curiosity in a different way than if it had a more finished look. We can see the early progress of the mural in this photo by Russ Andris.







The Artist:

Bettencourt is a local artist who has shown in various galleries, created numerous murals, and collaborated with other artists such as 2hERMANO, Skinner, and John Stuart Berger. 2hERMANO posted a video of a freestyle collaboration mural he painted with Bettencourt. One of the local murals by Bettencourt was inside the former Nine16 Skate Shop (now out of business) and I’m sure the mural has been painted over. Fortunately, Russ Andris captured a photo of the mural featuring Bob Marley and other musicians while Nine16 was still open. Here’s a video interview with Bettencourt from his March 2011 show in LA titled “The Political Paintings of Pete Bettencourt.”









Title: <unknonwn>
Artist: Pete Bettencourt
Date: 2008
Media: paint
Location: 1723 J

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Furlow Furrows Mural ~ 1716 L

“Things that crawl, bite, squirm, slither and cause serious harm; those are the things I dream about. Snakes, lizards, carnivorous mammals, birds, and insects with large mandibles are the most amazing organisms in my surreal world.” (Artist’s statement: The origin of my pathology)

And so we enter the surreal world of artist John Stuart Berger, local artist who “renders mutated organisms for your enjoyment!” Berger worked collaboratively with Dolan Forcier to create this expanse of mural spans a 200′ wall of the building that houses Old Soul coffee house and the Midtown Business Association.

The Art:

The sun is my favorite image in the mural. The quails emitting bright energy bubbles are kind of fun too. Russ Andris has a nice panoramic of the mural as well as some in progress images during the 10 days the mural was being painted. In this video interview, Berger talks some about the process and his meanings of the mural. He says; “I think we are kind of taking one of those bucolic nature scenes and turning it on itself.”

The Artist:

Berger’s day job is at the Short Center North where he facilitates art activities for people with disabilities (1). He has been drawing since he was a child when he began learning how to draw from field guides. Out of this and his zoology/science background emerged his style of crazy, rabid animals (2).

Operation Groucho:

Art can be fun and irreverent, like this mural and like Operation Groucho, which Berger was also a part of with the Badmouth crew here in Sacramento in 2006. Large Groucho glasses were custom-made to fit the disembodied head sculpture at 65th & Folsom.

This video shows the entire operation with glasses finally resting on the sculpture called “Matter Contemplating Spirit” by Stephen Kaltenbach. A News & Review article quotes Kaltenbach’s approval for Operation Groucho: “I’m sorry I missed it…. I thought it showed quite a bit of respect to the piece. Art is supposed to interact with people in different ways. Groucho is one of my favorites, too.”

Title: Furlow Furrows
Artist: John Stuart Berger with Dolan Forcier
Date: 2009
Media: Paint
Location: Parking Lot @ 1716 L St

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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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Mt. Diablo Sunset ~ 2220 J

Anytime of the day, you can travel along J Street and enjoy a ”Marty Stanley sunset” on this large mural. Marty Stanley, a foremost painter of the Sacramento delta, was well known for his paintings of delta sunsets (1). The full title of this mural is, “Mt. Diablo Sunset as seen from Bouldin Island at the confluence of the Mokelumne and San Joaquin Rivers” (2)

The Art:

“I seldom paint the land. I always focus on the water. It’s all about clouds and reflections on the water” (3). Like this mural, Stanley’s landscapes were usually streched horizontally to convey the long Valley and winding Delta waterways (4). Sarah Rohrs calls his work a “sublime marriage of water and sky.” (5).

The Artist:

At just 19 and with no formal training, Stanley, a native of the Sacramento delta, made a decision to pursue life as an artist. In 1988, he opened the Levee Gallery in Ryde, which is on the Sacramento River about 3 miles south of Walnut Grove. Stanely’s body of work includes more than 400 original images of the Delta (6). In addition to the panoramic sunsets like this mural, his also painted much of the nature, architecture and history of the Delta region. He collaborated with Charlie Soderquist to create the book “Sturgeon Tales, Stories of the Delta.” I was saddened to learn that Stanley suffered from mental illness and in 2006 he took his own life (7). You can read more about Stanley on his website:

The Place:

Two places are important in this story: the specific place the mural captures and the Delta as a whole, where Stanley spent his life.

Stanley’s website quotes him describing the importance of growing up in the Delta to his work as an artist: “I believe it was part fate that my parents moved to Isleton when I was only three months old. I was meant to grow up here in the Delta” (8). Stanley attributes much of his stimulation and growth as an artist to the small Delta towns in which he grew up. “Little did I know then, but that atmosphere was offering me the building blocks of my young, formulating mind. It was feeding the creative side of me. It nourished me — the people, shops and restaurants were really fascinating. It was all the fabric of my life, very rich and diverse” (9).

To capture the image of this mural, Stanely stood at the confluence of the Mokelumne and San Joaquin Rivers. The Mokelumne River watershed begins in the Sierra Nevadas just south of highway 88 and flows through Lodi until it meets the San Joaquin. The name Mokelumne is from the Plains Miwok peoples. The San Joaquin River is over 365 miles long. The river starts in the high Sierras west of Fresno and releases into Suisun Bay near Pittsburg (10).

The map below shows Bouldin Island at the “A” pointer which is near the confluence of the Mokelumne and San Joaquin Rivers. Mt. Diablo is in the lower-left area of the map to the south west of Bouldin Island, and Sacramento is near the top of the map to the north.

Title: Mt. Diablo Sunset
Artist: Marty (M.C.) Stanley (
Date: 2000
Media: Paint
Location: 2220 J

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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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Sac Evening Skyline Mural ~ 2316 C

A mural of the Sacramento skyline with evening stars and a bright moon welcomes customers entering the local printing business, J. Prassa Printers. The mural was painted by William Boddy in 2004 (1).

Boddy had his studio in Sacramento for some years and painted numerous murals around town including: the lobby of Cal Farm Insurance, a skating rink, and a dive shop (2). Boddy now resides in Salida Colorado.

J. Prassa has been a local Sacramento business for 30 years. They use sustainable practices including using only soy based inks and their paper stock includes 100% Post-Consumer Waste paper (3).

Title: (unknown)
Artist: William Boddy (
Date: 2004
Media: Paint
Location: 2316 C Strett

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Alhambra Reservoir ~ Alhambra and K

A 400 foot aerial map wrapped around the side of the Alhambra Reservoir creates an image of the water-flow drawn from our rivers and wetlands into the reservoir then delivered from there to our communities. Michael Bishop, a Fulbright scholar and art professor at Chico State, created this piece which was installed in 2005 (1, 2).

The water map appears a burnished gold during the day, and a night 2,000 feet of blue LEDs illuminate and animate the map. The dark spots in the LEDs that need repair detract from the effect, but it is still fun to watch the blue circle of the reservoir empty and fill every few seconds, simulating the daily water draw and re-supply (3):

The polyhedron-shaped reservoir was built in 1937 and holds 3 million gallons of water (4). The bottom 100 feet of the structure was previously home to a blood bank but now is home to the special operations and training facility of the Sacramento Fire Department (5). During World War II, the entire reservoir was painted in camouflage symbolizing the fighting abroad (6).

Bishop’s page for this project includes some excellent nighttime photos and he writes about the inspirations for the piece:

I was taken by how the water tower actually functions and at the same time, the urban history and urban myth surrounding it. It was painted in camouflage during the war, and still called the blood tank by locals from the days when the blood bank offices were downstairs. I was also interested in the tower as a symbolic contrast of organic space versus human made space – Jeffersonian grid meets American river. Maybe it boils down to the notion that I am not the believer in western narrative that I once was. It may seem odd, but to me, the work today is distilled and poignant, like focusing on an expansive horizon and realizing after awhile you are not spacing out, but taking it all in.

The 12-foot-tall, 350 lb concrete vessels decorating the top of the tank are a complement to the relief that appears above the main entrance (photo below). Stored inside the vessels are drawings and letters from local schoolchildren inspired by their lessons on the water tower (7).

Researching this piece, I ran across several photos of scooters parked in front of the reservoir. They are playing Scooter Tag, a game where riders take a picture of their scooter in a local spot (without identifying where) and other people have to figure out where the location is and then take a picture of their scooter in the same spot (8).

Title: The Alhambra Project
Artist: Michael Bishop (
Date: 2003-2006
Media: LED, Aluminum, Steel, Cast Vessels
Location: 3230 J St

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Serendipity Fountain ~ 400 Q

Although I’m still discovering the numerous art fountains throughout the downtown area, I’m willing to bet that Serendipity by Mark di Suvero would win in the category of “Most Fun Fountain”. Serendipity sits in the park-like area near the entrance to the CalPERS building at 400 Q.

The spiraling shape of the top sculpture, the varying water jets, and the mosaic tile pool are all fun and interesting, but the piece goes beyond the amusing shapes and colors. Nearby is a keyboard control so you can play with the jets to make the top sculpture move and sway in response to the jets.

There is a great photo of the fountain when it was brand new on the flickr page of SLDdigital, and in the photo you can clearly see the mosaic pattern and metal element for the jets.

In the video below, you can see a slight swaying movement of the top sculpture in response to the water jets:

This plaque describes the inspirational themes di Suvero drew on for the piece:

The inspiration for Serendipity comes out of di Suvero’s roots in California and his deep interest in the role of water has played in the state. The powerful spiral of this sculpture and its multiple jets of water allude to Sacramento’s complex relationship to the water sources contributing to the agricultural bounty of the Central Valley. The sculpture echoes the tree-like form at the building’s entrance, reminding us of the role CalPERS plays as provider to and protector of its members. The vivid mosaic image in the pool beneath is based on the drawing made by di Suvero that reiterates the dynamic form and gesture of the sculpture above.

Last March di Suvero was honored at the White House by President Obama with the National Medal of Arts (1). An online article quotes Obama praising di Suvero: “Exhibited throughout the world, Mr. di Suvero’s exemplary sculptures depict a strong political and social vision, demonstrating the power of the arts to improve our world” (2).

While exploring di Suvero’s works, I learned about Storm King, a 500 acre sculpture park 1 hour north of NYC with works by di Suvero, Andy Goldsworthy, George Rickey, David von Schlegell, and over 100 other artists. This fabulous looking park is now on my list of places to visit during my lifetime.

Motu Viget is another of di Suvero’s fun sculptures. Located in Grand Rapids City, the sculpture is a large steel form with a massive rubber tire suspended in the air and is known popularly as the “Di Suvero Swing” (3). A flickr site has a good photo of the entire sculpture.

Motu Viget is a Latin phrase meaning “strength through activity” and this seems particularly relevant given di Suveros’ history with an accident in 1960 that nearly killed him:

he suffered a near fatal accident that left him confined to a wheel chair for nearly two years. Despite a pessimistic prognosis, di Suvero, through sheer determination, regained his ability to walk. During his recovery, his work took on an even greater monumentality. (4)

This Grand Rapids Press article describes the history of Motu Viget, which was created in 1977, and includes a close-up photo of a couple playing on the swing.

Title: Serendipity
Artist: Mark di Suvero (
Date: 2005
Media: Stainless Steel, Titanium
Location: 400 Q

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Midtown Mosaic (4 of 4) ~ 2220 K Street

Part 4 is the final post in the Midtown Mosaic series and focuses on several more sections of this expansive mural which includes the work of more than 60 artists. The project was conceived and coordinated by Sacramento’s Midtown Alley Project (MAP).

If you missed them, be sure to start with part 1, part 2, and part 3 of the Midtown Mosaic series.

Click on any photo to see a larger image.

A delta landscape created by Debra Hardesty.

One of my favorite pieces in the mural. This one is by Jeff Musser, who has another, similar piece in part 1 of this mural series. In this video by Russ Andris, Musser tells the story of the woman in this image, Jessica, and discusses the symbolism of the white roses. (

A fun piece by Michelle Mackenzie. (

One of two pieces on the mural by Jared Konopitski. (

A second tall tree image was created by Brenda Boles, and another of Brenda’s signature tall trees appears on the part 2 post of the mural. (

Looks like a little tree frog – this one is by Barry Smith who is primarily a gallery owner but jumped in as an artist for fun.

Cartoon piece by Seth Forester.

An unusual piece in the mural by Kristina McClanahan, one of the founders of Midtown Alley Project, and the “Goddess of the geometric design” of the Midtown Mosaic mural. This piece is part of her “Mug Shot Series”.

According to Russ Adris’ page, this piece looks like it was created by an artist named, Cartman.

These next 4 images were all created by by Gustavo Reynoso who runs Galeria Reynoso in downtown Sacramento. (

Be sure to checkout Russ Andris’ cool panoramic photo of the entire mural. Andris also posted a 5 minute video panorama of the mural where he makes use of different zoom levels in order to show detailed views of many pieces as well as the larger mosaic view. If you have a Facebook account, visit MAP’s photo album to see photos of the mural’s progression from blank canvas to mosaic. MAP’s October 2008 blog post also contains some photos of the mural’s progression.

MAP honors Clare Bailey as the Guardian Angel of this mural for her efforts with coordination, support, and painting. Bailey is a galley artist and, Sacramento columnist, Bill Shallit, quotes Bailey’s dream of midtown public art where she “envisions a day when visitors can walk through midtown with headphones — like those available at museums — listening to art commentary on various midtown sites.” (1).

According to a recent Sacramento Press article, Claire’s dream is coming alive:

By early June, residents will be able to take walking tours of this growing outdoor gallery, thanks to tour maps being printed and posted online as part of the Midtown Alley Project (MAP) (2)

Keep your eye on Midtown Alley Project. The Sacramento Press article lists at least 5 more pieces that have gone in since Midtown Mosaic and more are to come: “Owners of at least three other properties are now talking with the MAP crew about adding public art at their spaces” (3)

Title: Midtown Mosaic
Artist: 60+ different artists coordinated by Midtown Alley Project
Date: 2008/2009
Media: Paint
Location: Alley between K and L on 23rd Street

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Whiskey Wild: Steel Doors and Windows ~ 1910 Q St

Update 7/2012: The steel doors and windows have been removed as part of construction happening on the building in what looks to be preparation for opening another bar here.

The lone bar near the railroad tracks at 19th & Q, Whiskey Wild, has been vacant and boarded up for years now. Driving by one day, I recognized the metalwork on the doors and windows as the work of Keith Peschel, who created the steel door series called, Under the Microscope, at a parking structure downtown.

This building was home to Peschel’s art before Whiskey Wild took it over, and his website includes good photos of the metalwork in its early (pre-graffiti) days; (see photos 23-25).

Title: (unknown)
Artist: Keith Peschel
Date: (unknown)
Media: Steel
Location: 1910 Q St

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