Sacred Art - Page 2

Prolific yet unsung, Northern California artist Ray Rice put creative expression at the center of his life
Sacred Art
Sacred Art
Two of Ray Rice's mosaic tables from the mid-1950s designed for homeowners. The bottom one, for photographer Ernie Braun's San Anselmo home (1954), remains the centerpiece of the Braun living room today.
Sacred Art
Sacred Art
Two shots from a mosaics class held in Rice's Corte Madera studio, 1955.

“It was not so much a formal movement,” Tepper said of the Arts and Architecture Movement, “as a description of what was happening.”

Informal it may have been, but the movement accomplished much—certainly for Rice.

Besides taking part in the group’s annual exhibits at the San Francisco Art Festival, Rice designed sculptures and murals for dozens of buildings throughout the Bay Area and beyond.

He painted murals with an astronomical theme for San Miguel School in San Francisco in 1953. By 1955, having taken up mosaics at the suggestion of Halprin, Rice produced a 54-foot mural in glass for a swimming pool at San Francisco’s Holiday Lodge, showing tendrils, seashells, and cartoon-like autos.

In 1956, for architect Mario Gaidano, Rice sculpted a concrete flower for the North Beach restaurant Fior d’Italia. He also created mosaic sculptures for Romanoff restaurant atop Nob Hill.

For landscape architect Bob Royston, Rice created pipe-and-concrete play structures for several parks. Rice also designed a play structure at either Pomeroy West or Pomeroy Green, Eichler townhouses in Santa Clara.

For architect John Bolles, Rice created mosaics for the IBM campus in San Jose; and for Anshen & Allen, best known as Joe Eichler’s original architects, he created large mosaic murals for American President Lines ocean liners.

Rice created mosaics and sculptures for “schools throughout San Joaquin Valley” designed by the modernist architect John Lyon Reid, according to Rice’s resume.

For Woodlake Apartments, south of San Francisco, a Halprin project, Rice used Venetian glass mosaic to create a “fascinating scene of low tide” in the bottom of a swimming pool, along with a sculptural “whirling sea grotto,” according to promotional material for the project. A “giant shell-like perforation (for swimming through) lends a playful function to the sculpture.”

Rice did smaller residential work as well, much of it in mosaic, which he used in flat panels, in low and high relief, and in three-dimensional sculptures. Rice did any number of works for people who lived in Eichler homes, including Gene Tepper and Rice’s friend, architect Melton Ferris.

He created wall and fireplace mosaics, and mosaic tables. Eichler’s photographer Ernie Braun had a mosaic table at home; textile designer Dorothy Liebes paid $350 for hers, a good sum in 1955.

Many of Rice’s commissions paid well, according to his records. In 1957, American President Lines paid him $2,451, which could have bought him a Chevrolet Bel Air at the time.

Not recorded are income for what may be Rice’s largest commissions—immense mosaic installations for the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan, and a 138-foot mosaic mural from 1961 that greets passengers arriving street-side at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport featuring, the Fresno Bee said, “an abstract approach to the aeronautical theme.”