Orbiting The Planet

J.B. Blunk’s beloved sculpture The Planet is still the heart of the Museum for generations of visitors

There is something irresistible about The Planet, the massive sculpture that has graced the entrance to the Gallery of California Natural Sciences ever since OMCA opened in 1969. Despite its enormity—it’s made from the base of a two-ton redwood tree—The Planet invites a cozy, intimate experience: you can touch it, sit on it, lounge on it with your friends. “No other work that I know of has been so caressed for so long,” says Carin Adams, curator of art, speaking to the appealingly tactile nature of the work. 

One of the first works to be commissioned by OMCA, The Planet (often referred to as the Redwood Burl) was conceived of as a piece of functional art, a sculpture that could serve as a bench, a play space, and a meeting place. At thirteen feet in diameter, the commission was so large that the entry doors had to be put in after the piece was installed. Artist J.B. Blunk created its richly textured, irregular shape with the assistance of Bruce Mitchell, now a prominent wood sculptor, in just two months, but the piece has evolved over the years to take on rich layers of meaning and a deep association with the Museum.  

“Blunk wanted his work to be lived in and lived with, which really aligns with our goals as a museum,” says OMCA Director and CEO Lori Fogarty. “Not only does the work capture the beauty of the California landscape, it creates a high level of engagement and interactivity. It has become a completely integral and deeply symbolic part of the Museum’s fabric.” 

Photography: J.B. Blunk, The Planet, 1969. Redwood burl, 144 x 144 x 36 in. approx. Courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California. (Photography: Matthew Millman.)

J.B. Blunk: Nature, Art & Everyday Life is supported in part by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board and members of the Donor Forum.

J.B. Blunk

OMCA features the work of California original J.B. Blunk, who combined nature and art in exquisitely crafted functional sculptures.

Return to Feature