All posts by taraingram

Stainless Steel Grillwork ~ 15th & O

This interlocking stainless steel grillwork created by Gale McCall can be found on O Street between 14th and 15th along the outside of the childcare facility yard at the Department of Education building.

The fence runs about half of the length of the entire block. There is a door at each end and one in the middle.

Between the doorways, there are eight large circular pieces that are made of interlocking shapes, cut-out like a puzzle and placed back together to make them whole (1).

This grillwork is one of many pieces in the Capitol Area East End Complex Art Program; which is a “$2.8 million art program that emphasizes the values, heritage, direction and goals of the State of California.” (2).

McCall works in a variety of media (3) and in her metalwork she often uses cold bending and welding (4). A few of her other pieces are displayed on this art slant profile. She has a number of public works including Columbia City Station, Port of San Diego, and The City of Whittier

Title: untitled
Artist: Gale McCall
Date: 2002
Media: Stainless Steel
Location: O between 14th & 15th

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Community Roundabout ~ 26th & S

Update Spring 2012: Two of the sculptures were knocked over, apparantly by a car accident, and they have since been removed.

This metal sculpture by Kristen Hoard sits in the roundabout at 26th & S. There are four figures marking each direction of the roundabout.

I can’t think of another roundabout in town that boasts art. Apparently Hoard went through an involved two-year process with the City of Sacramento and the Homeowners Association for this piece:

The public project that Kristen has named “Community” has involved submitting proposals and plans, obtaining engineering approval, and coordinating with other artists and assistants who have also donated their skills to cutting, grinding, powder coating, and eventually erecting the large metal pieces stabilized in concrete in a local traffic circle roundabout. Even the metal has been donated (Blue Collar Supply) since this is one of the few Kristen Hoard pieces that is not constructed of recycled metal (1)

The figures are powder coated a different color on each side, making eight colors total as a symbol of diversity in the Sacramento area (2). I bet it is particularly stunning in the spring when the flowers are in bloom.

Hoard works most often with recycled metal from scrap yards (3). She started working with metal in 1999 in the Bay Area and came to Sacramento about 7 years ago when she bought a house here and transformed the garage into her metal working studio.

My journey into artistry has been in parallel with my spiritual journey. And, I believe these two things are inseparably linked in numerous ways. The feeling I get from working with metal and all the processes involved is all consuming. There is great sensuality in working within this genre, because visually, heat brings out differing colors, shapes and textures that transform simple object into art (4).

You can see more of Hoard’s work on her website,

Title: Community
Artist: Kristen Hoard
Date: 2009
Media: Metal
Location: 26th & S

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“Art is All Around Us” Walking Tour

Together, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership and Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission’s Art in Public Places program co-developed an art walk in downtown Sacramento called, Art is All Around Us

Art is All Around Us | A tour of Sacramento’s collection of art in public places
Tour Sacramento’s impressive collection of permanently sited works of art integrated into Sacramento’s built and natural environments. See local works by notable local and regional artists. This tour was developed in partnership with Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission’s Art in Public Places program. Richard MacGill leads this tour.
Tuesdays: 3 pm
Wednesdays: 10 am
Thursdays: 11 am
STARTING POINT: Indo Arch outside of Downtown Plaza at 3rd & K streets
COST: $10.00 per person

This article is a review of the art walk with photos of the pieces: Art is All Around Us walking tour.

Downtown Sacramento Partnership has developed a number of interesting Sacramento walking tours around different themes.

Cathexis ©Caroline Thompson All Rights Reserved

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

Tree City Mural ~ 2524 J St

The images will speak for themselves here because not much information surfaced in my research on this mural. I like the flow of images following the mural up and around the side of the building. The way the birds fly across the space brings the window into the art as well.

Moving up the side…

And around the corner…

The mural is on the side wall of the Upper Playground store — the ultimate urban store and they also display a lot of local (I assume it is local anyway) art. When Joe and I went by to take photographs of the mural, the store was closed but we could check out the amazing wire sculptures displayed in their front room.

Sam Flores created this mural (one of his many) and he has a blog here,

Title: Tree City
Artist: Sam Flores
Date: 2008
Media: Spray paint
Location:Upper Playground, 2524 J Street

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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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Spirit: The Chrome Horse ~ 1814 19th St

This chrome sculpture is an 11-foot tall, 2,500 lb imposing piece of art that dominates the front entrance to Safeway of all things. It is a strange beast. I admit my own intrigued but ambivalent feelings toward this shopping center art. After learning more about the artist, Sean Guerrero (aka The Bumper Hunter), and his work I have more intrigue and less (but still some) ambivalence.

Guerrero builds his sculptures in chrome from recycled bumpers of old cars. On his website, Bumper Hunter, he writes:

As an artist, when I’m alone out there among my latest finds, cutting off the bumpers of these old iron beasts. . . . I envision them as old buffalo that never completely decayed and crumbled into the earth again; different herds of steel buffalo- Pontiacs, Chryslers, Chevys, and Buicks- that all ran together on their prairies of concrete and asphalt. . . . Whether it’s a 14 foot rearing stallion or an imposing Knight on a Horse, I feel that through the reinterpretations I’ve created over the years I’ve preserved their strength and style like a monument to their dignity. (1)

The horse was commissioned by local developer, Paul Petrovich, who is quoted saying “Retail is about life and energy. . . . His art adds lots of energy.” (2) Retail is not about life to me, but Guerrero’s work definitely adds energy.

I was impressed to read a quote by the landlord of Guerrero’s studio in Denver who says, “He doesn’t make any plans, or any sketches, he doesn’t measure anything. . . . He just cuts a piece out and welds it on. It’s unbelievable how he can visually look at this stuff and have it come out the way it does.” (3)

I’ve seen some of Guerrro’s other work and it conveys to me the intensity and power I think he is seeking to convey. His pieces do feel like resurrections of the big chrome bumper car beasts, and the horse lover in me is drawn to what he captures in this piece. I suspect that part of my ambivalence comes from how these pieces evoke the myths of Westerns and the American Dream for me. I am aware of the problems those myths perpetuate so it is difficult to surrender to the images/feeling of the art. Part of the value of art is making us stop to reflect on these things, regardless of the degree to which we “like” the images or not.

Title: Spirit
Artist: Sean Guerrero
Date: 2004
Media: Recycled chrome car bumpers
Location: Safeway storefront, 1814 19th 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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