Proteus Fountain ~ 9th & H

Summer in Sacramento, the perfect time to seek out public art in the form of fountains.

A large fountain spraying cool water into the air surrounded by dozens of trees creates a nice respite in the courtyard at the entrance of the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse. The fountain is a 32′ diameter sculpture wrought from bronze and cooper by Aristides Demetrios in 1965 and titled, Proteus (1).

In Greek mythology, Proteus is the “Old Man of the Sea” and shepherd of the seals who could assume the form of his choice (2). Thus the adjective protean has positive connotations of flexibility, versatility and adaptability (3). I don’t know whether the piece was placed in front of the courthouse with that symbolism in mind, but I very much like that to enter the threshold of this courthouse, one must pass a symbol of flexibility, versatility and adaptability.

For a good photo of the entire fountain from above, click here, and for a 60’s era photo from another angle click here.

Demetrios has another public art piece in the Sacramento area, Cosmos, a red sculpture towering 80′ tall at Olympus Pointe in Roseville (4). Cosmos was installed in the late ’80s on a hill next to the freeway exit near Sierra Junior College. The sculpture must have been very new when I started at Sierra in the fall of 1988, and it remains a landmark to me of that time in my life because we passed it every day driving to campus.

One of the world’s largest aeolian harps (wind harps) was designed by Demetrios and sits atop a hill in an industrial park in San Francisco (5). The harp is 92′ tall and the hill provides a stunning view of the area.

Every year in March, my uncle (an amputee from Vietnam) participates in the Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico as a fundraiser for his organization, Disabled Sports USA. This is relevant to this post because Demetrios created a memorial to the Bataan War called, The Eternal Flame of Freedom, that sits on Corregidor Island in the Philippines at the entrance to Manilla Bay. The original Bataan Death March was:

the forcible transfer, by the Imperial Japanese Army, of 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war after the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of prisoners. The 60 mi (97 km) march was characterized by wide-ranging physical abuse and murder, and resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon prisoners and civilians alike by the Japanese Army, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime. (6)

The sculpture by Demetrios “commemorates the sacrifices, hopes and aspirations, and the heroic struggle by the United States and the Philippines to preserve freedom for future generations. The sculpture stands as a reminder that all men will fight as one if need to be to defend a nation’s liberty. (7)

Appropriate for an Independence Day post.

This detail shot shows how mini-fountains are created within the fountain by the varieties of shapes within the design.

A close-up of the fossil-like design on the metal plates.

As I took photos of the fountain, I wondered if the design includes movement of the water jets or variance in the water pressure. I imagined that one might see a very different looking fountain depending on how the water flowed over the wild metal shapes of the sculpture.

Today and tomorrow the forecast is for 100°+ heat; a good time to enjoy our local fountains.

Title: Proteus
Artist: Aristides Demetrios (www.demetriossculpture.com)
Date: 1965
Media: Bronze and Copper
Location: 9th between G & H


View Pedestrian Art, Sacramento in a larger map

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristides_Demetrios
(2) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/480043/Proteus
(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proteus
(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cosmos_by_Aristides_Demetrios.jpg
(5) http://www.ssf.net/index.aspx?NID=1233
(6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bataan_Death_March
(7) http://www.flickr.com/photos/adem_chua/3621501066/

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