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: Sculpture by BART

Have you ever noticed the big wooden sculpture across the street from the Walnut Creek BART back parking lot? It’s right between the big office buildings that engulf Caffe California. Funny enough, it’s just down the block from our Better Homes and Gardens offices!

I’ve walked past this a few times and never gave it a second glance, but I actually noticed it recently and I love the composition of the structure. It kind of looks like a bunch of different parts of a piano was disassembled and dropped in a heap on the concrete.

Make sure to take a look next time you’re on your way to or from BART. It’s pretty cool!

Art Town: Sparks

Tucked away in front of a building on Cole Ave. (off N. California Blvd. by The Counter), is a cool sculpture called “Sparks.” I never would have noticed it if not for looking up while I was walking by.

The sculptor is Linda Fleming, a longtime sculpture professor at California College of the Arts. She has three major pieces at the Oakland Museum, which you can see HERE, HERE and HERE.

Lesson learned: always pay attention to your surroundings so you don’t miss anything!

Art Town: Family

There is a very good chance you’ll recognize today’s Art Town sculpture. Even if you don’t bank with Chase (or Washington Mutual, as it used to be known), you’ll surely have wandered past “Family” on the corner of Newell and S. Main before.

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This is a bronze sculpture (it has changed colors over the years because of basic exposure to the elements) created by Richard Ellis and placed on that corner in 1982. It was one of the first public pieces of art in Walnut Creek!

Ellis made the 9-foot tall sculpture to represent a timeless scene of “a fleeting moment in time.” Very cool! Fun fact about Ellis, who studied Sculpture in Los Angeles: he crafted the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award that was presented to Oprah Winfrey in 2002.

Art Town: City Hall

I saw this untitled sculpture from 1962 in Walnut Creek City Hall recently and thought it was beautiful! Check it out:

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It was created by Stephen De Staebler, a nationally recognized sculptor from the Bay Area, whose work is based on the expressive potential of the human figure. Clearly, that theme is present in this piece. De Staebler learned to exploit the inherent tendencies of clay as a student under Peter Voulkos in the early 60’s.

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De Staebler worked in clay, but also is well-known for his work with bronze. His quote on the public art plaque is very interesting: “We are all wounded survivors, alive, but devastated selves, fragmented, isolated – the condition of modern man. Art tries to restructure reality so that we can live with the suffering.”

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Even though this structure is indoors and not likely to be seen by as many people in Walnut Creek, try to remember to stop and check it out next time you’re near City Hall!

Art Town: Wings

fullsizerender-6The other day, I was grabbing lunch at Vitality Bowl in downtown Walnut Creek when I thought I need to look for another piece of art for my blog.  I looked up and noticed – for the first time ever – a cool sculpture across the street by the Lesher Center.

It’s funny how that happens! I’ve lived here for years, and probably walked that sidewalk a hundred times, and only now noticed it!  Art is all over Walnut Creek, you just have to look and notice.

The sculpture is called “Wings” and was built in 1986 by Walnut Creek resident Dan Dykes. He grew up on a small Oregon farm on the outskirts of the Siletz Indian Reservation, where his early exposure to natural forms in that rugged environment continues to influence his abstract work.
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To me, the sculpture looks like an angel from certain angles, with its wings spread out behind it. Dykes intended for there to be hints of simple birds, plants and trees in the sculpture, and for the durable bronze material to change with weather over the years, as well as with light patterns to reveal tiny, purposeful markings.

 

 


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Art Town: Lost in the Mail

img_9051A fixture of the downtown Walnut Creek art scene since 1985, Jacques Overhoff’s “Lost in the Mail” sits on the corner of Civic and Main, across the way from the police station.

If you’ve ever grabbed a coffee at La Scala or strolled from Stadium Pub to Dan’s on a weekend night, you’ve passed this ceramic sculpture.

Overhoff, a Dutch artist, named this piece after the plans to assemble it literally got lost in the mail.

The design is supposed to be texture-focused and allow for softening and hardening of the features depending on the angle of the sun.

According to the Walnut Creek Arts Commissioner, some people believe the sculpture looks like a pizza with two slices taken out of it. I personally see some sort of decaying sun dial, but to each his or her own!

Art Town: The Nordstrom fish!

img_9064Have you ever been wandering downtown by Broadway Plaza and turned the corner around Nordstrom and ended up staring into the open mouth of a big, golden fish statue? It startled me the first time I saw it.

Of all the strange art in Walnut Creek, this is a strong contender for weirdest of them all.

The fish, which is actually entitled “Bronze Carp” is the brainchild of the late Luciano Tempo, a Venetian-born artist who specialized in classically-hand carved stone planters, tables, and statues.

If my research is correct, Tempo also has a bronze alligator and frog somewhere in Walnut Creek. I haven’t seen those, but they are said to be placed around Broadway Plaza in a similar setting to the Bronze Carp.

Though the fish isn’t the prettiest to look at, it’s fascinatingly strange and adds a little bit of spice to our downtown art scene. It seems Walnut Creek isn’t shy about throwing random artwork together, huh?

 

Art Town: Dueling Eggs

Right across the street from my office on Riviera Ave., there is a unique sculpture (that doubles as a PokeStop, for those of you still hunting…) that I’ve dubbed “Dueling Eggs.” As you can see, it looks like two hollow, silver eggs that rotate and spin in the wind.

I couldn’t find any information on an official title or backstory, but it’s pretty fascinating to watch on gusty days. If you’re impatient, you can also spin it yourself. Add it to the list of interesting artwork dotting Walnut Creek these days!

Oh, for what it’s worth – the name of the PokeStop on Pokemon Go is “Two Egg Omelet,” but I like our name better…

 

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The story behind Civic Park’s “Hand of Peace”

FullSizeRender (4)We continue our tour of Walnut Creek’s public art scene with one of the more recognizable sculptures in the city: “Hand of Peace,” located just outside the library in Civic Park. The aptly-named sculpture is a monument to peace by Italian-born artist Beniamino Bufano, who passed away in 1970.

Legend has it that Bufano cut off his trigger finger and sent it to President Woodrow Wilson to protest World War I. He was a peace activist who taught at the San Francisco Institute of Art, UC Berkeley and Oakland’s California College of Arts and Crafts, according to a 2012 San Jose Mercury News story. Bufano has other prominent pieces in the Bay Area, including a sculpture in Chinatown, one at Mondavi Vineyards in Napa, and one at Lake Merced.

According to the San Jose Mercury News article, Bufano originally created the “Hand of Peace” for the San Francisco Arts Commission, but when the piece was put up for sale, developer Bill Swigert paid $50,000 to place the sculpture in Walnut Creek, outbidding Fox Plaza and Ghirardelli Square.

The sculpture sat in an office park in Walnut Creek from 1967 to 2009, when it was taken down for restoration. Now, it’s up for display for many years to come in Civic Park. The sculpture weighs nearly 5 tons, stands 30 feet tall, and is made of copper, mosaic and stained glass.

Oh, and it’s a PokeStop, by the way…