Category Archives: Local Artist

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

Bon Air Mural ~ 2531 J St

10/18/11 Update: The Bon Air mural was removed earlier this month due to dry rot in the siding. Russ Andris reports that the owner plans to have a new mural take its place, hopefully by the same artist who created this original mural.

This spray paint mural was created by Joshua Silveira and Gabriel Romo for Bon Air Sandwiches in March 2007 (1). I found the term ‘urban tattoo’ from a blog article on local murals which says that innovative, funky, and edgy “21st-century murals [have been] cleverly and appropriately dubbed ‘urban tattoos’, by Bonnie Shafsky a local landscape designer.” (2)

Previously, the wall of the market was graffitied, and artists Silveira and Romo approached the owners of Bon Air about creating a mural (3). Since the mural, the wall has not been graffitied again. An article in Urbanites quotes Ham Nagin, co-owner of Bon Air, telling the story how the mural came about:

[The artists] approached us about painting the mural… Before, [the wall] had graffiti, so we sat down together and decided what to do. Now, the mural shows one person eating a sandwich, and they came up with [the idea] of another person having a drink, and they used my son as a model for that. Nagin says he’s gotten a lot of positive comments about the piece; a win-win-win for the artists, Bon Air and art lovers of all stripes (4).

As I was photographing the mural,the background image came into focus, and suddenly the Tower Bridge emerged behind the sandwich eater. Before that moment, my eyes hadn’t seen those shapes as anything but abstract elements of the mural. Viola! There was the Sacramento skyline.

The wooden birds are mounted using spacers to they come out of the wall at various depths, and a few birds are painted directly on the wall. Note the bird poop on the bird below. Graffiti artists may have respect for each other’s works but birds will crap anywhere.

You can learn more about the artists on their websites, and

Title: Bon Air Mural
Joshua Silveira and Gabriel Romo
Date: 2007
Montana Gold spray paint. Birds in wood. (5)
Location: East facade of Bon Air Market, 2531 J Street

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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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