There is no doubt that art is subjective. What one person considers stunning and inspiring, another person considers an oddity. There are currently over 600 pieces of public artwork scattered throughout the city including murals, sculptures and water features. While most are considered beautiful additions to their surrounding area, some are bizarre, leaving residents and visitors wondering “What were they thinking?” Here are just a handful of public art pieces that might catch your eye for all the wrong reasons.
Safeway’s Chrome Horse
1814 19th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
As an icon of the Wild West, horses are a common theme for public art throughout Sacramento. There is of course the statue in Old Sacramento marking the western-most point of the Pony Express Trail and the aluminum horse made out of an old Airstream on J Street. But it is artist Sean Guerrero’s shiny addition to the Safeway shopping center on 19th and S Streets that has caused the most head scratching and controversy. For every person that views the sculpture as beautiful and well done, many others say it is kitschy and oddly placed.
“Matter Contemplates Spirit”
Dos Coyotes Border Café
6450 Folsom Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95819
Horses aren’t the only theme of public art in Sacramento. Scattered throughout the city are random body parts – shaking hands at 555 Capital Mall and an assortment of arms and heads near the Sacramento Convention Center. As strange as these are, none look more out of place than the giant woman’s head that adorns the front of Dos Coyotes Border Café on Folsom Boulevard. The piece was created by Davis artist Stephen Kaltenbach in 2005 as part of the “F65” retail and residential complex.
350 N. Sunrise Ave.
Roseville, CA 95661
Driving along the Interstate 80 corridor, it is impossible to miss the giant red sculpture that welcomes people to Roseville. The piece was created by artist Aris Demetrios in 1990 and has been the subject of much discussion ever since. Urban myths have it that the piece represents a “rose” for Roseville and when seen from above, it looks like the flower. However, the piece is actually meant to symbolize unity. What some see as an eyesore – the sculpture is showing its age and the surrounding park has fallen victim to vandalism – has become a symbol of the city, despite a controversial beginning.
560 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Visitors passing from Old Sacramento to Downtown Plaza may not notice as they pass under the Indo Arch, but in its early days, it stood out as one of the only things in the area. Created in 1977 by Gerald Walburg, the Indo Arch draws inspiration from Islamic art and architecture. At the time of its installation, the piece was controversial because of its steel construction, environmental impact and the original context, as it was placed between a motel and a city parking garage. Like much of the public art throughout the region, the Indo Arch has faded and is frequently defaced by graffiti.
Sacramento International Airport, Terminal B
6900 Airport Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95837
Of all the stunning artwork featured at Sacramento International Airport’s new Terminal B, none has drawn more attention than the giant red rabbit. Lawrence Argent’s “Leap” is the centerpiece of the baggage-claim area and has since won an award by the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network. While the piece is meant to symbolize the hustle and bustle of the airport, many say it is not a fitting symbol of the capital city. Others say it is just plain odd. Good or bad, it is definitely the focal point of the airport, something you certainly can’t miss as you are passing through.
Crocker Art Museum
216 O St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Though no longer on public display, one of the most discussed public art pieces in Sacramento has to be “Progress II” by Luis Jimenez. The sculpture was created in 1974 and stood on the corner of 16th and K Streets. Depicting a vaquero chasing a longhorn cow, the piece symbolizes progress throughout art history. However, the monstrous piece tends to elicit strong negative reactions, being called everything from weird and cartoonish to frightening. The sculpture can still be seen at the Crocker Art Museum.
Karen Boruff is a freelance writer living in Sacramento. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.