Last Spring, I was commissioned to be a part of a unique public art project in the Sacramento area. Along with 20 other artists, I was chosen by CADA and the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission to complete a series of designs to be wrapped in vinyl around the utility boxes on each corner of the downtown streets. It was a great chance to help beautify the normally dull, gray boxes blighted with tags, or just generally sticking out like a utilitarian eyesore. I created designs for two boxes entitled Meta Mirror I and Meta Mirror II, located on 8th & O street and 7th & Capital Avenue. 

Meta Mirror I  (8th and O Street)

Meta Mirror II  (7th and Capital Avenue)

I gathered the concept of my designs initially from the fact that both utility boxes would be in close approximation to a light rail station. People waiting, just sitting or standing around looking at their phones, connected yet disconnected. Hooked up to the stream of information through their devices yet unhooked from the stream of information in their environment, the real flesh and blood human beings just inches or feet away. Not a judgement as much as a simple observation (I, too, am guilty of the phone obsession from time to time).

It's an observation, though, that makes me think of the complexity of life, the complexity of reality, and how easy it is to gloss over with inattention. The sheer amount of intricacies involved in the make-up of even the simplest of objects or life-forms is staggering, and worth attention. This is an idea, too, that is strongly illustrated by the drawing technique I employ using text, using language and information as the way to create forms, to create objects and figures in the space. The content is there, the thing behind the thing, glowing under the gloss. 

Some of these thoughts heavily influenced my choice to use Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay entitled Nature as the primary text for the pieces. I almost exclusively use self generated text on all my work, making collaged poems to utilize as a script, but the time constraints and tight deadlines forced me to look outside for a quick solution. All said, the drawings and paintings on watercolor paper took 3 solid weeks before being transferred to a digital medium for the vinyl wrap print and installation process. 

Though the deadline was in the spring, it took awhile for the project to see the light of day. A little of bit legal red tape here and there caused the installation to be held up until just a few weeks ago in late July - early August. There was a reception on Second Saturday (August 9th) with all the artists, art-goers, friends and family. I was really amazed to see all the great work that went into it and to get a chance to talk with some of the other artists.

Artist Reception - photo by CADA

At the end of the reception, the CADA staff passed out a map of where all the boxes were located and we split off into our own private walking tours. Bunches of beautiful designs littered all over the downtown area.

Capitol Box Art Brochures -  photo by CADA

Capitol Box Art Brochures - photo by CADA

A huge thanks to Karen Ulep and Todd Leon at CADA for their tireless work to elevate Sacramento to a community of art and culture from the street up. All the box designs can be viewed at 

On a parting note, CADA has been holding a contest with the project. It's open to the public to submit photos to their Facebook page: A couple of really intriguing pictures of my designs have been submitted, and one of them won the first week of the contest!!! Good times!!!

photo by Joe Chan

photo by Wesley Apfel-McDowell