Dec 172014

98 West Portal Avenue
Corner of Vicente and West Portal
West Portal

This mosaic is on the outside of the bank that stands at the corner.  At the time of the commission of the art (1976-77), the bank was a Home Savings Bank. This particular mural was a collaboration between Millard Owen Sheets, Denis O’Connor and designer Susan L. Hertel.

Millard Sheets Mosaic Home Savings

Millard Owen Sheets (June 24, 1907 – March 31, 1989) was a native California. He was a painter and a representative of the California School of Painting, later a teacher and educational director, and architect of more than 50 branch banks. He attended the Chouinard Art Institute.

According to San Francisco Mosaic: Sheets used his architectural firm to promote and illustrate his philosophy that art should be incorporated into every aspect of daily living. Sheets designed interior and exterior plans for over forty Home Savings and Loan bank branches in California. The distinctive modular design that Sheets created highlighted local historical events or natural features, and became synonymous with the Home Savings of America. In 1999 Washington Mutual acquired the bank. Much of this original work was funded through an active and supportive public art program that was part of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Mural at Home Savings in West Portal Denis O’Connor was the only child of a coal miner and his homemaker wife, O’Connor was born in 1933 in the English coastal town of Seaham Harbour. His mother died when he was 11. He earned a degree in drawing and sculpture from the Royal College of Art in London. With his wife and son, O’Connor came to the United States in 1959.  O’Connor, was a mosaic muralist who executed massive portraits of idealized California life at many Home Savings of America buildings in the 1960s and 1970s as part of an ambitious public art program.

Mosaic in West Portal

Susan Lautman Hertel, a former art student of Sheets, worked with him for 30 years, then took over his design firm when Sheets retired in the mid-70s.  Hertel, who died of breast cancer at age 63 in 1993, attended Scripps College in Claremont, CA, which she entered in 1948. Originally from Illinois, she would marry, raise a family and live in Southern California before moving to a ranch in Cerrillos, New Mexico in 1980. She is known for both her mosaic work and her paintings prominently featuring animals.

Sheets, O'Connor, Hertel Murals

There is an interesting explanation of the piece by a gentleman that appears to be the preeminent expert on Home Savings Murals, you can read it here.

Dec 102014

University of San Francisco
Fulton Street
In Front of Gleeson Library/Geshke Center
Inner Richmond

USF Pancho Cardenas Sculpture

Commissioned by USF this piece was installed November of 2011. The 2-ton work, Los Lobos de Loyola, depicts the wolves and stewpot from the family coat of arms of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. Some say the 15th-century image is a pun on the Loyola family name (“lobos y olla,” wolves and a stewpot); others suggest the pot is a symbol of hospitality and the wolves point to the family’s reputation as warriors.

Los Lobos of Loyola

Crafted by Pancho Cardenas, the eight-foot high by sixteen foot long bronze is a second edition of Cardenas’ original work created for the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City a decade ago.

Francisco Cárdenas Martínez, also known as Pancho Cárdenas, is a Mexican artist. He was born 1956, in Iztapalapa, east of Mexico City.

He is noted for his statue of Pope John Paul II with Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, made entirely with keys donated by Mexicans to symbolize that they had given him the keys to their hearts.

Dec 022014

16th and Mission
24th and Mission
Bart Stations
Mission District

Art in 16th and Mission Bart Station

These abstract, cast stone, pieces can be found in both the 16th and Mission and 24th and Mission BART stations.

Art at the 24th and Mission Street BART stations

The works are by William George Mitchell.  Mitchell (born 1925) is an English sculptor, artist and designer. He is best known for his large scale concrete murals and public works of art from the 1960s and 1970s. His work is often of an abstract or stylised nature with its roots in the traditions of craft and “buildability”.  He studied at the Royal College of Art in London.

William George Mitchell

After long years of neglect, many of William Mitchell’s remaining works in the United Kingdom are now being recognised for their artistic merit and contemporary historic value, and have been granted protective, listed status.

White Cast Concrete Sculpture in Bart Stations

These pieces were some of the first art pieces to be placed in BART stations as part of the ART in BART program, and were installed sometime in the 1960’s.

William George Mitchell in SF

Nov 252014

Mission Branch Library
24th Between Bartlett and Orange Alley
Mission District

Leo Lentelli at the Mission Branch Library

Leo Lentelli was one of San Francisco’s more prolific and well known sculptors during his time.  Sadly very little of his work survives inside of the city. There is a beautiful piece at  the Hunter Dunlin building downtown, and this sculpture over the original entry door on 24th Street of the Mission Branch Library.

Lentelli, an immigrant from Italy spent 1914-1918 in San Francisco.  During that time he did a series of equestrian statues that were part of the Court of the Universe and his sculptures of Water Sprites for the Court of Abundance for the Pan Pacific Exposition

Mission Branch Library San Francisco

Lentelli created “Five Symbolic Figures,” a series of five statues representing Art, Literature, Philosophy, Science and Law, that were placed between the pillars above the entrance to the Old Main Library at Larkin Street. These works, made of cast stone  were installed in 1918, the year after the Library opened, and were not intended to be permanent. Sadakichi Hartmann, writing for the Architecture and Engineer in 1918, praised these works for “their sturdiness of conception and attitude, their decorative expression, and a certain swing and freedom of handling.” To my horror upon learning this, and to the detriment of all, the Asian Art Museum, when taking over and renovating the Library, found that these works had deteriorated so much that no attempt was made to retain or restore them.

From the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection SFPL

From the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection SFPL

Leo Lentelli Sculpture

The Mission Branch Library is part of the group of libraries built in San Francisco with William Carnegie monies, this particular building was built under the design guidelines of the Carnegie Standards.

Carnegie Library in San Francisco Mission District

Nov 172014

San Francisco Zoo
The Parking Lot
Sloat and The Great Highway

Fleishhacker Pool Remnants

This small monument is a remnant of a once great institution of San Francisco, the Fleishhacker Pool.

Photo Courtesy of the SFPL

Photo Courtesy of the SFPL

Fleishhacker Pool, like the San Francisco Zoo was a gift to San Francisco by Herbert Fleishhacker. The idea, conceived by John McLaren, designer of Golden Gate Park, was to help bring athletic competitions to San Francisco.

The first event held at the pool was on April 22, 1925 and featured a freestyle swimmer named Johnny Weissmuller representing the Illinois Athletic Club. Weissmuller appeared several times at Fleishhacker and was a real crowd pleaser.

Photo Courtesy of SFPL

Photo Courtesy of SFPL

The 6, 500,000 gallon, filtered seawater filled pool, opened to the general public on May 1, 1925.  It cost 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for kids under 12.  For that you had use of the the dressing rooms with showers, and the loan of a bathing suit and towel that were sterilized between uses.

The pool had twelve lifeguards and a number of life rowboats.  It also boasted a tree-sheltered beach, a cafeteria, and even child care if you needed it.

The pool, while it existed was the largest in the world.  In 1943 U.S. troops used it to train for amphibious beach assaults.

Photo Courtesy of SFPL

Photo Courtesy of SFPL

Slowly slipping into disrepair the pool suffered its final blow when an outflow pipe collapsed in a 1971 storm, the city was unable to foot the bill for repairs.  The pool closed in June of 1971, and the concrete was broken up and the hole filled with dirt.  The land was granted to the zoo with the intention of adding parking.

Fleishhacker Pool filled in

The pool house however, remained, it was hoped it would become a restaurant.  Sadly it simply became a shelter for vagrants and feral cats.  The pool house caught fire and burned to the ground on December 1, 2012

Fleishhacker Pool Ornamentation

leaving San Francisco with but a remnant of a glorious past.


Nov 102014

155 Sansome Street
Financial District

115 Sansome Street, San Francisco

The sculptures over the Sansome Street entrance to the Pacific Stock Exchange, now the City Club, were done in 1929-1930 by Ralph Stackpole.

Stackpole has been in this website many times before and you can read about him and his work here.

On January 18, 1930 Junius Cravens of the Argonaut wrote of this piece:

“As one studies Stackpole’s fine decorative sculpture group, ‘Progress,’ which overhangs the east entrance to the office building, one finds in it a symbol,whether employed conscious­ly or not, of the aforesaid future. A huge nude male figure, in high relief, dominates the group, his outstretched hands resting upon the arc of a rainbow. Above the rainbow, to the right and left,are stylized suggestions of rain and lightning, symbolizing water and electric power. Be­neath it, and flanking the main figure, are two smaller male figures in low relief which represent progressive labor. The group as a whole is beautifully balanced in design, and is executed with mastery.”

Ralph Stackpole on the City Club of San Francisco







Barnyard Watchdogs

 Zoo  Comments Off
Nov 032014

San Francisco Zoo
Entry to the Children’s Zoo

Bronze Geese statue at SF ZooBarnyard Watchdogs by Burt Brent

This cute sculpture and climbing item is by Dr. Burt Brent. Dr. Brent is a reconstructive plastic surgeon best known for his work in reconstructing the absent outer ear. He has repaired ear defects in 1,800 patients, most of them children born with ear deformities such as Microtia. He also reconstructs ears lost or due to some form of trauma. Dr. Brent is now retired.

Brent grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and was highly influenced by his maternal grandfather who taught him cabinetry and woodworking. Although he considered a career in art, he was always surrounded by medicine, because his father was a physician who had an office in the basement of their home.

Burt Brent Geese at SF Zoo

As an avid naturalist, Brent is a member of the Society of Animal Artists and has created sculptures of numerous of birds and mammals, two of which grace the San Francisco Zoo.

Hearst Grizzly Gulch

 Zoo  Comments Off
Oct 212014

San Francisco Zoo

Grizzly by Tom Shrey


This grizzly by Tom Schrey graces the Hearst Grizzly Gulch building at the SF Zoo.  Tom has a degree from California College of the Arts and presently works at Artworks Foundry.

Hearst Grizzly Gulch Tom Schrey Scultpure


The following was excerpted from a June 15, 2007 SF Gate article by Patricia Yollin:

Three summers ago, two grizzly bear orphans in Montana were trying to fend off starvation. Now they are coddled ursine superstars living in San Francisco.

On Thursday, the public got its first glimpse of the twins’ opulent new home as Hearst Grizzly Gulch, a $3.7 million habitat at the San Francisco Zoo, opened for business. Kachina and Kiona, whose species adorns the California state flag, quickly demonstrated that they knew how to work the Flag Day crowd.

Proximity is one of the exhibit’s highlights. A thick glass window is the only thing separating humans and carnivores in one section of Grizzly Gulch, which also includes a meadow, 20,000-gallon shallow pool, heated rocks, 2-ton tree stump, dig pit, herb garden and 20-foot-high rock structure.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Where are we going to put them?’ ” recalled Manuel Mollinedo, the zoo’s executive director.

SF Zoo Bears

The sisters, now 4 years old, moved into a concrete enclosure that’s part of an old-fashioned bear grotto built in the 1930s. It will serve as night quarters and adjoins the new habitat, the result of a fundraising campaign by Carroll — who said he envisioned an endless series of “$100,000 lunches” before Stephen Hearst, vice president and general manager of the Hearst Corp., set up a $1 million donation.

Hearst was mindful of his family’s connection to grizzlies. His great-grandfather, San Francisco Examiner publisher William Randolph Hearst, arranged for the 1889 capture of a wild grizzly that he named Monarch — his paper’s slogan was “Monarch of the Dailies” — who inspired the creation of the city’s first zoo.

WPA habitat at SF Zoo

The Zoo’s first major exhibits were built in the 1930’s by the depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) at a cost of $3.5 million.  The animal exhibits were, in the words of the architect, Lewis Hobart, “ten structures designed to house the animals and birds in quarters as closely resembling native habitats as science can devise.” These new structures included Monkey Island, Lion House, Elephant House, a sea lion pool, an aviary, and bear grottos. These spacious, moated enclosures were among the first bar-less exhibits in the country.

Original Animal enclosures SF Zoo



Bizim Cebish Muellim

 Azerbaijan  Comments Off
Oct 202014

Baku Boulevard
Baku, Azerbaijan

Sculpture of Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku Boulevard is a beautiful walking esplanade on the Caspian Sea that fronts almost the whole of Baku.  There are hundreds of bronze whimsical statues along the boulevard.

This fellow is a character from the Movie “Bizim Cebish Muellim”.

I found no signatures on any of the sculptures and there is no markings anywhere to say who the sculptors were, but it is a divine way to spend the afternoon, strolling and appreciating the quality of public art that defines the boulevard.

sculpture along Baku Boulevard in Azerbaijan

Twelve Beauties

 Azerbaijan  Comments Off
Oct 202014

İçəri Şəhər
Old City or Inner City
Baku Azerbaijan

Twelve Beauties by Nail Alakbarov

This sculpture by Nail Alakbarov cuts along the edges of İçəri Şəhər.  The description that accompanies the sculpture far better explains the situation than I ever can…

This composition represents a sculptural image of seven armudi glasses standing on top of each other. Armudi is the name of traditional Azerbaijanian glass used for drinking tea, it can be translated as “pear-shaped” since it resembles a pear. On the other hand such shape could be associated with the contour of a female body. Thus the glasses also symbolize seven beauties from a similarly named masterpiece written by Nizami Gencevi.

The sculpture is installed in Icheri Sheher among ancient architecture. The aim of this project is to combine a national aspect with the international. As the people of the era of globalization tend to say: “Think global, act local”. In other words the artist provides contemporary art that is cosmo political by definition with a national content. Being a representative of local artistic intelligentsia, the artist is trying to express his concerns about the loss of cultural identity in the countries that have already faced globalization. Though the work is a piece of contemporary art, it still demonstrates a prevailing Eastern-centric vector.

Historical Background

In Azerbaijan, where tea-drinking is widespread, tea is regarded as a symbol of hospitality and respect to guests. Serving tea before the main course is an old tradition. It is a customary to drink tea not from porcelain cups but from special pear-shaped glasses that are called armudu. Their shape resembles a pear with slightly smaller top than the bottom distinguished by a narrow “waistline”.

There are numerous interpretations why these glasses have such an unusual form: it is easy to handle, it resembles a shape of a woman’s body, etc. As a matter of fact, the reason is quite simple: the tea in the bottom section of the glass cools down slower than in the upper one, keeping the temperature of the tea same. Determined by its functionality and beautiful shape armudu is definitely a perfection in terms of design. Every Azerbaijani city, no matter how big or small, has a tea-house. Tea houses play an important role in the social life of the citizens, people discuss news, read newspapers, make plans, play backgammon, maintain relations. Tea is also a very important aspect of the Azerbaijani engagement process. Parents of the bride show their respond to the groom by serving him a tea, if they serve it with sugar it means “yes”, if without – it means “no”.

Nail Alakbarov

This project was sponsored by YARAT! which was founded in 2011 by Aida Mahmudova, YARAT! is a non-commercial, private organisation dedicated to the promotion and nurturing of Azeri Contemporary art nationally and internationally.

Nail Alakbarov graduated from the A.Azimzade School of Art and continued his master’s degree at the Azerbaijan State Academy of Fine Art.

He continued his education at the national French art school École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts and in 2012, Alakbarov received his master’s on cinematography at the Lumière University in Lyon.