Art Town: Figure (Get Set)

This utility box is on the corner of N. Main St. and Lincoln Ave. in downtown, and has been on display for a couple years now. It’s situated in front of Modern China, across from Opa, in a very heavily-trafficked part of downtown Walnut Creek. It first drew my eyes from its startlingly large human figure.

It depicts a woman in a red dress who seems to be admiring herself in the mirror. It kind of gives me “50’s movie starlet” vibes for some reason. The artist, Carla Gelbaum says she paints from her imagination using universal and whimsical themes. She says she likes to use the “infinite possibilities of life and the universe” to paint her pieces, and that she often uses vibrant, bold color themes.

 Those styles are readily apparent on this utility box, which also lists “Get Set” in tile at the bottom. This differentiates it from other “Get Set” pieces Gelbaum has done. All her work in that series is acrylic painting of females in red bathing suits who “look upon their world in a calm and reflective manner.” You can see more “Get Set” pieces here at Gelbaum’s website.

Gelbaum was raised in the Bay Area and has other pieces around the East Bay, including at John Muir in Walnut Creek. I really enjoy this utility box painting, as it gives me a calming, optimistic feeling for some reason. Have you seen it when you’re walking around downtown? If not, keep your eyes peeled!

Art Town: New-look California Plaza

If you’ve ever hopped on BART in downtown Walnut Creek, you’ve probably seen the towering, 10-story office buildings just across the street from the North parking lot (if the train was headed towards the Pleasant Hill station). It has recently gotten a makeover, including state-of-the-art conference facilities, residential units and an outdoor area with bocce ball courts.

Also part of the makeover is a brilliant art installation, which paints a beautiful picture of Mt. Diablo across multiple fans against a wall. I call them “fans,” though I’m not sure exactly what the structure is, what kinds of materials were used, or who created it! Information is sparse.

What I do know, though, is this is an amazing upgrade to a space that was very 1970s outdated. I’m excited to see what other changes they will add to the building to spruce up the Walnut Creek BART area. It seems like good timing, with all the changes going on around and in the Bart area that destined to become a little village.  Just on Riviera the back road to WC Bart and where my office is located, are 3 new condo complexes being built (a future blog), not to mention the large apartment complex across from Bart on Ygnacio.

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Art Town: Car Mural

Just outside of Anthropologie in downtown Walnut Creek, there’s this really cool mural of a couple and their car. There’s a huge American flag waving in the background. I don’t know exactly where it came from, what it signifies, or why it’s placed there. But for some reason I really like it!

Maybe it’s just because it’s “classic” American. It reminds me of a scene from The Great Gatsby, where the lavish, wealthy crowd would gather for parties with fine cocktails. I don’t know if that’s what Anthropologie is going for here, but the sheer size of the mural itself makes it interesting to me!

Art Town: Water Light Plaza

As Walnut Creek continues to shove colorful apartment complexes into every available corner of commercial real estate left, we find ourselves more and more populated in this little town. However, with each new complex comes a new work of art.

As you can see in the picture above, this newest piece is attached to the back of a public parklet, called Water Light Public Plaza on Locust. The glass and water feature is a cool look, and accents well with the area itself. The entire little plaza is located in a courtyard as part of the new Lyric developments across from MoMo’s.

You can’t beat the location of these apartments or the Water Light plaza itself. I appreciate that it’s a cool little place to hang out when you’re wandering downtown and it’s too crowded to move or you just need a place to rest your legs. If you pick up to-go food, it might also be a good spot to plop down for a bite – think Vitality Bowl or the New Poke restaurant that just opened.

Also, you can’t deny how eye-catching the artwork itself is! The colorful mosaic pattern set over the black is really attractive, and the water feature at the bottom is unique. Just another great piece to add to the downtown Walnut Creek collection!

Art Town: The beautification of Main St.

As Walnut Creek continues to rapidly evolve, with it goes the art scene. We try to feature cool public art pieces around Walnut Creek in this Saturday showcase. This week, we want to pay homage to the general beautification of Main St., especially all the colorful new planters!

As you can see, these really pop and make the sidewalks much more attractive. All the minor landscaping details and added colors have begun to give Walnut Creek’s remade downtown corners a lot more character. Instead of a sea of concrete and expensive shops, locals and visitors will be distracted by all the good-looking art!

That’s a good thing. I really appreciate that the city is making an effort to incorporate art into its downtown landscape. It seems very necessary! As long as there are beautiful flowers in beautiful planters along the sidewalk, it will feel pretty homey around here.

Art Town: Geological Evolution of Mt. Diablo

Most of the art we feature here are one-off pieces. This piece, however, is multiple independent parts that come together to form one. And it’s a dazzling recreation of one of the Bay Area’s most treasured jewels: Mt. Diablo. You can check it out by the Century Theaters downtown. Give a quick stroll before or after your next movie to see it!

You can see the cascading art from the top piece (above), to the first part of the next (below). It’s granite in stone, created by Doron Robinson in 2003, and represents the geological transformation of Mt. Diablo. What a cool piece! Follow along as Mt. Diablo is created from top to bottom (or, in geological terms, from bottom to top!).

Art Town: Master Study, Mount Rosalie

One of the best things Downtown Walnut Creek has accomplished in their art scene is making the electrical utility boxes you see scattered throughout any town look pretty. This is a popular trend in various cities and Walnut Creek  has jumped on the bandwagon!

This particular box is in front of Talbot’s on the corner of Main St. and Olympic Blvd., and is a nice piece of work by Mary Anne Kluth. It is called “Master Study, Mount Rosalie,” and was commissioned in 2014.

Kluth was born in Colorado but lives and works in the Bay Area after earning her MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2008. Her piece was installed as a digital print on this box (as many are), but the original work used a hand-cut archival photo collage and acrylic paint to get this sort of apocalyptic, bizarre but beautiful nature painting.

Mount Rosalie of course is located in Colorado and is now called Rosalie Peak. I used to interpret this as a religious interpretation, but now that I have more knowledge about the piece, I want to go back and look at it in more detail. Note: Gott’s Roadside (future blog) opened Thursday. If you end up there, walk a block over and check out Mount Rosalie.

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Art Town: Save Mt. Diablo

I come across a lot of great art when I’m wandering in Walnut Creek. This one hits close to home. There’s nothing necessarily startling about it; it’s just a beautiful painting of Mt. Diablo’s landscape, with a very special message attached to it.

If you can’t read what that says: “This art wrap installation is in honor of Save Mt. Diablo for the important work they do preserving our local treasure.”

That’s right – it’s a dedication to an organization that has been around for nearly 50 years, devoted to saving the unprotected parts of Mt. Diablo from development. So far, the organization has done a fantastic job of increasing protected lands in the parks, and will continue fighting to do so.

This artwork – on the utility box in front of Vineyard Vines (corner of Mt. Diablo Blvd. and N. Main St.) is a perfect tribute to thank them for their efforts. And it adds to the beautification of downtown Walnut Creek, especially this corner!

Art Town: Bullman With Bulldog

Well, this one kind of sprung up out of nowhere, huh? I love it, though! This piece on the corner of Mt. Diablo Blvd. and N. Main St. is just so unique, you can’t miss it – or you might, as it blends in with the crowds. This shot was taken late at night but look at the contrast of the day-time photo at the bottom of the blog.

The piece was donated by local developer Brian Hirahara and sculpted by Gerald Heffernon. It’s a life-size bronze statue of a half-man, half-bull dressed nicely and leaning against the pole on that street corner. His bulldog is on a leash, and there is unbelievable detail on the piece.

According to Heffernon, human figures depicted with animal heads is imagery deeply embedded in our psyches because we have a desire to acquire the power of other animals by getting inside their minds. If you think about it, even as far back as ancient Egypt and Greece there were minotaurs, hawk-headed humans, and more.

“A bullman is a hybrid of two animals,” Heffernon says. “A bulldog is all dog, but one bred to battle bulls. In this case, the bull(man) seems to control the bulldog, but those roles can reverse, as they can with humans and their dogs.”

The piece prompts us to consider which animal is in charge, as is often the case with dogs and their human owners. There is a triangle of competing wills. Heffernon, who hails from Winters, CA, calls himself a conceptual wildlife artist and wants his human/animal hybrid sculptures to be surreal, funny and thought-provoking.

Unsurprisingly, Hirahara also had a hand in approving the creepy downtown fountain with the head in it!

The piece definitely has mixed reviews – what do you think of it? Love or hate?

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Art Town: Hummingbirds on Broadway Paseo

Walnut Creek has done a lot of cool things with the rebuilding of Broadway Plaza, but one of my favorite new additions is all the art that’s going in to complement the buildings!

Recently, I was wandering the Broadway Paseo near the parking garage and saw Joyce Hsu’s hummingbird statues in front of Tommy Bahama’s. I think they look awesome and really draw a pedestrian’s eye to the color and form (they look as if they’re in flight)!

After doing a little research, I discovered that it’s part of a larger art installation called “Rawr,” which will also consist of a large robot T-Rex and a dinosaur bench just outside Macy’s. They are meant as both art and as a place for children to take a break when shopping.

According to the official approval documents, Hsu has always been intrigued by childhood fables, because it’s a reinterpretation of how the “adult” society works. She created the sculptures to remind visitors to Broadway Plaza of the importance of fun, play and imagination when building a stronger community.

Here’s a fun fact that also inspired Hsu’s hummingbirds and helped make them an obvious inclusion in the theme of her overall project: hummingbirds are, in fact, the smallest living dinosaurs!