Category Archives: Prominent Artist

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
(2) http://www.miamidade.gov/publicart/photo-mdc-van-schlegell.asp
(3) http://www.fpaa.org/child/map_100_sch_voy.html
(4) http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/31152/300_Capitol_Mall_ecocertified

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


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(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/

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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(1) http://www.examiner.com/culture-events-in-sacramento/art-is-all-around-us-walking-tour
(2) http://www.mmoca.org/mmocacollects/artist_page.php?id=5
(3) http://horsesinthesouth.com/Articles/Press-Release/BarbaraButterfield.asp
(4) http://www.mmoca.org/mmocacollects/artist_page.php?id=5)
(5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deborah_Butterfield)
(6) http://landmarks.utexas.edu/artistdetail/butterfield_deborah
(7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deborah_Butterfield
(8) http://www.sacbee.com/2010/05/22/2768895/long-abused-public-sculpture-to.html#storylink=misearch
(9) http://www.artltdmag.com/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=1219256801&archive=&start_from=&ucat=41&amp
(10) http://stcgallery.webs.com/apps/blog/show/prev?from_id=6893218
(11) http://stcgallery.webs.com/apps/blog/show/prev?from_id=6893218

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 Sculpture.org)

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 Sculpture.org 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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(1) http://www.bibliopolis.com/main/books/jmv_7242.html?id=cIHnYIxv
(2) http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag99/oct99/rickey/rickey.shtml
(3) http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag99/oct99/rickey/rickey.shtml
(4) http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag99/oct99/rickey/rickey.shtml

Amaneceres de Sacramento ~ 16th & L

Nine beautiful sunrises (amaneceres) radiate energy along the facade what could have been an ordinary parking garage building. From the corner of 16th & J, the 16′ high cut steel grille arches, called rajas, extend down each block (1). The artpiece is called, Amaneceres de Sacramento, and it was created by Victor Mario Zaballa, an artist from San Francisco.

The rajas were inspired by wrought-iron tracery placed over doorways in 16th-19th century colonial hacienda and mission architecture of Mexico (#).

This piece was created as one of about two dozen art pieces by different artists in the Capital Area East End Art Program. Last September, I posted on a metal grillwork piece by Gale McCall that is also part of the East End project.

The state government website for this project describes the rajas as representing the rising sun:

The inspiration for the rising sun icon comes from the Aztec “Stone of the Sun” or Aztec calendars as well as the shining, sun-feathered headdresses of Quetzalcoatl or the Morning Star. (2)

The various shapes within the arches form layers of concentric arcs and these contribute to the radiating energy emanating from the central “sun” image.

Zaballa and his long-time partner, Ann Chamberlain (who passed away in 2008), collaborated in 1999 on a project for the Mexican Cultural Heritage Gardens in San Jose (3).

Images of their art for the San Jose gardens can be found on the Google Books page for a book titled, Designing the World’s West Public Art. The book describes the theme of their collaborative artpiece as, Cemanahuac, or “the location of the individual within their community and the cosmos.” Over 500 community members drew on their personal histories and participated in creating this piece during a series of public workshops (4).

In an interview with Shuka Kalantari, Zaballa describes how he survived liver failure some years ago (5). He was on dialysis for seven years while he waited for a transplant and during that time the viens in his arms swelled from the dialysis to the point where he could not create his art. He eventually had a successful transplant and has returned to his art. The interview discusses the cultural implications of organ donation and transplant in the Latino community, and it also includes a slideshow video of Zaballa and some of his art.

In 1990, Zaballa completed an artist research program at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. He created a performance piece called, Ayolotl, which drew, in part, from his own dreams:

Victor Mario Zaballa created a performance based on tradition, anthropological research, and his own dreams. “Ayolotl” explored the relationship of pre-Columbian people with the nature that surrounded them. The performance included the use of a Mayan water drum which he finished during his residency, and the traditional paper art of Mexico. (6)

Next time you drive, walk, or ride along the East End Garage at 16th & L, take a moment to notice and enjoy the warming energy of nine rising suns.

Another set of photos are available at the CA.gov main page for this artpiece.


Title: Amaneceres de Sacramento
Artist: Victor Mario Zaballa
Date: ~ 2003 or 2004
Media: Metal
Location: North and west facades of the East End Parking Garage at 16th & L


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(1) http://www.eastend.dgs.ca.gov/ArtProgram/Victor+Zaballa+Main+Page.htm
(2) http://www.eastend.dgs.ca.gov/ArtProgram/Victor+Zaballa+Main+Page.htm
(3) http://articles.sfgate.com/2008-04-22/bay-area/17146113_1_gallery-paule-anglim-collaborative-san-francisco-main-library/2
(4) http://thebesttimeoftheday.blogspot.com/2009/06/ann-chamberlain.html
(5) http://www.reportingonhealth.org/fellowships/projects/organ-donation-latinos-isnt-only-medical-issue
(6) http://www.exploratorium.edu/programs/ARP_projects.html

Resurgence Mural ~ UCD Med Center

“Resurgence” is a three-story mural comprised of handmade, hand-carved terra-cotta tiles with glaze finish (1). The piece (roughly 32′ high by 18′ wide) was created by Yoshio Taylor and commissioned by the UC Davis Medical Center for the main lobby of their Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion.

Taylor spent 18 months and 9,000 pounds of clay to create this mural which is made up of 500 tiles each weighing 8-10 lbs (2). Taylor describes in this interview that Resurgence is his largest work to-date and the first time he has combined terra-cotta tile with glaze finish (3).

This time-lapse video shows Rich Patrick of Sherman-Loehr Custom Tile (4) mounting the tiles over a five-day period. I enjoyed seeing the sun moving across the frame, creating a time-scale of the mural’s installation (5).

While designing a mural for the lobby of a medical center for surgery and emergency services, Taylor imagined the chaos and stress that people might be feeling in this place. He sought to create something that would be “soothing to their soul and mind” (6). He decided on a waterfall because it evoked strength as well as calming. In an interview with Kristie West, Taylor said:

“I wanted an image that would soothe the people, calm people down and at the same time project a positive image,” he said. “In most cultures, water is a healing type of thing. And a waterfall is pretty dynamic and soothing.” (7)

To coincide with a healing and curing theme, Taylor included images of real and mythical fauna and medicinal plant life such as Echinacea and dandelion (8).

Taylor immigrated from Japan in 1955, earned his BA at CSUS in 1979 and MFA at UCB (9, 10). He has been an art instructor at Cosumnes River College for over two decades where he teaches classes in sculpture and three-dimensional art (11).

John Natsula’s gallery has a profile page for Taylor with images of his ceramic sculpture. Be sure to click on the last image in the list which is called, Cycle, it is stunning. On that profile, Peter London describes Taylor’s work this way:

“Like all good art, the work of Yoshio Taylor requires nothing more to enjoy than a ready pair of eyes-or sensitive fingers. His work is so emphatically present and appealing that one need know nothing further about Taylor or the themes that he investigates. The images are clear and robust. They are skillfully carved and handsomely glazed; the symbols and forms are somewhat familiar and also sufficiently novel so as to draw the viewer closer for finer inspection.” (12)

Taylor has many public art works, including an installation at Plaza Escuela in Walnut Creek near where I attended high school. The article describes how he used “the surrounding environment – the plaza’s name, the location, local flora and fauna, endangered species, and Mount Diablo” as inspiration (13).

Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission lists 4 public art pieces by Taylor in their Art in Public Places online collection. His Sacramento pieces include a work called, Spherical Discourse, installed at the downtown plaza, and this is one of the pieces included in the Art is All Around Us walking tour I posted on last fall.

In 1985, Taylor created a ceramic mural honoring the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II for the chambers of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors at 700 H Street in Sacramento. During the same period the mural was created, the board decided to pay restitution to 4 Japanese American county employees who lost their jobs at the time because the board supported the internment (14). The mural includes poetry by Hiroshi Kashiwagi called, Japanese Americans 1942-1946 (15). I’ll be visiting this historic mural and posting on it in the near future.

The Sacramento Bee offers a photo gallery of the mural and KCRA posted a video on youtube around the time of the mural’s installation in September 2010.

I also plan to post on the UCD Med Center’s large art collection consisting of over 2,000 pieces commissioned since 1985 (16).


Title: Resurgence
Artist: Yoshio Taylor
Date: 2010
Media: Terra-cotta tiles with glaze finish
Location: Lobby of the UC Davis Medical Center Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion, on X Street between Stockton and 45th Street


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(1) http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/features/2010-2011/11/20101104_waterfall-mural.html
(2) http://www.crc.losrios.edu/Events_and_Culture/Campus_News/Yoshio_Art_Mural.htm
(3) http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/features/2010-2011/11/20101104_waterfall-mural.html
(4) http://www.sacbee.com/2010/09/25/3055403/a-peaceful-refuge-rises-at-hospital.html
(5) http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/features/2010-2011/11/20101104_waterfall-mural.html
(6) http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/features/2010-2011/11/20101104_waterfall-mural.html
(7) http://www.crc.losrios.edu/Events_and_Culture/Campus_News/Yoshio_Art_Mural.htm
(8) http://www.crc.losrios.edu/Events_and_Culture/Campus_News/Yoshio_Art_Mural.htm
(9) http://www.crcconnection.com/2.9558/art-professor-displays-new-sculpture-1.1370996
(10) http://www.natsoulas.com/html/artists/yoshioTaylor/yoshioTaylor.html
(11) http://www.crcconnection.com/2.9558/art-professor-displays-new-sculpture-1.1370996
(12) http://www.natsoulas.com/html/artists/yoshioTaylor/yoshioTaylor.html
(13) http://www.nowville.com/contra-culture/articles/featured-artist-yoshio-taylor/
(14) http://digital.lib.csus.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/mats&CISOPTR=123&CISOBOX=1&REC=16″
(15) http://www.asianamericanbooks.com/books/3588.htm
(16) http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/features/2010-2011/11/20101104_waterfall-mural.html

De Forest Mural ~ 9th & P

This ceramic tile mural on the California Energy Commission building at Ninth & P was created by Roy De Forest (1). The mural is about 60 feet long (2) and is described as a celebration of farming in the Sacramento area (3). I also see elements of Sacramento area history and landscape with the Native American man (top image just above the horse and bottom-left detail image below) and the Sierras in the distance (top-right detail image below).

The contract for this mural was part of the art funding in the Capitol Area Plan (4). De Forest spoke with Lynn Robert Matteson in an oral history interview and described how the tiles were created, given that he hadn’t previously worked with tile:

“I just got a big piece of paper – a big, you know, 10 – 12-foot high paper and got samples of tile by going to Mexico and I got a palette of individual colors of the glazes. So then I mixed up batches of color matches and then the big scenario was in my studio. And then I rolled those up and sent them to Mexico and they had some local artists or peons there or whatever you would call them paint each tile.” (5)

De Forest came to California in the 1950’s to study art and was involved early in the California Funk movement (6). This movement was also called Bay Area Funk or California Myth-Making (7).

[H]is paintings, drawings, and prints evolved into the brilliantly patterned mystical geographies, through which romped his signature dogs, wandering semi-humans and phantasmagoric traveling beasts. These visually compelling canvasses filled larger and more dazzling spaces with gleeful, self-reverent, yet serious and sophisticated images (8)

On a visit to SFMOMA several years ago, we happened to buy a small print of a De Forest painting and it demonstrates the dog-themed works that he is most known for:

“Country Dog Gentlemen” by Roy De Forest, Art © Estate of Roy De Forest/Licensed by VAGA, NY, NY

“De Forest liked dogs, beady-eyed, tongue-lolling dogs,” explains Associate Professor of Art Julia Marshall in a teacher’s guide for a 2007 exhibit of De Forest’s work. “Repeated over and over in his many paintings, they are like a running joke, a crazy nonlinear story that continues from one picture to the next. These pictures are visually striking and fun to look at and De Forest always claimed that they were fun to make. That’s why he did them.” (9)

The mural below is installed in the San Francisco airport and uses an entirely different color palate but some similar imagery as the Ninth & P mural.

Homage to Zane Gray; 1978

More images of De Forest’s works are available on artnet and on the John Natsoulas site.

Title: (unknown)
Artist: Roy De Forest
Date: Unknown
Media: Painted Ceramic Tile
Location: 1516 Ninth Street


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(1) http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-3410659.html
(2) http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/oralhistories/transcripts/defore04.htm
(3) http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-3410659.html
(4) http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/Legi/Publications/2009LegislativeReports/CapAreaPlanProgress.pdf
(5) http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/oralhistories/transcripts/defore04.htm
(6) http://www.natsoulas.com/html/artists/royDeForest/Roy.html
(7) http://www.sfartscommission.org/pubartcollection/pubart-projects/2008/10/20/public-art-projects-list/
(8) http://www.natsoulas.com/html/artists/royDeForest/Roy.html
(9) http://www.sfsu.edu/~sfsumag/archive/fall_09/final.html

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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(1) http://www.examiner.com/culture-events-in-sacramento/art-is-all-around-us-walking-tour
(2) http://www.davidgilhooly.com/davis/pv/pv.htm
(3) Art in the San Francisco Bay area 1945-1980: an illustrated history, by Thomas Albright
(4) http://www.ehow.com/facts_5527660_history-california-funk-pottery.htm
(5) http://www.squarecylinder.com/2009/11/profile-peter-vandenberge/
(6) http://www.squarecylinder.com/2009/11/profile-peter-vandenberge/

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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(1) http://www.enamelarts.org/exhibitions-fredballsenamels.php
(2) http://www.modernsilver.com/june07/paintingwithfire.htm
(3) http://www.enamelarts.org/exhibitions-fredballsenamels.php
(4) http://www.enamelarts.org/exhibitions-fredballsenamels.php
(5) http://www.modernsilver.com/LoisFranke.htm