Queen Califia’s Magical Circle at Kit Carson Park: Sculpture Garden
On Thursday, October 14, 2010 at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, California, I went to visit Queen Califia’s Magical Circle. It is the only American Sculpture Garden by artist, Niki de Saint Phalle. The garden promises to become a cultural landmark for the San Diego region. Susan Pollack, the manager of the City of Escondido’s Public Art Program, says that visitors are welcome to roam, play, touch, dream and find inspiration there. The garden links California’s mythic and historic origins and cultural diversity. There were some significant moments the docent had mentioned that I will remember and what inspired me was the artist herself. I thought this Sculpture Garden was original and unique, and it left me wanting to research more about the artist and the different meanings behind her work.
What was significant to me was learning about the history of the garden and the techniques that were used in creating it. Niki immersed herself in regional history and myth. She constructed eight large totemic sculptures that had monsters, deities, geometric symbols, skulls, humans and various animals that played vital roles in southern California (also including Spanish, Mexican and Southwestern Indian cultures.) Niki personally selected dozens of varieties of glass that differed in color, hue, shape, translucency and degrees of reflection. She also used a wide assortment of polished and tumbled stone. Lech Juretko, a director of Niki’s mosaic workshop, described that the results are “magical and ever changing, as the movement of light, wind, and color reflections continually transform the garden.” I couldn’t agree more. The garden captures the essence of beauty and culture.
What captivated me most and what I will remember a year from now are the vibrant colors and intricate designs on Niki’s artwork. The different textures and mosaic ornamentation on the different pieces were eye-catching, and one could tell this garden was put together with thought and care. There were many beautiful, colorful designs on the artwork, which gave the garden a kid-friendly atmosphere. My favorite and most memorable thing about the garden is the entrance. When you first walk in, there are two snakeheads leading into the maze-like mirror entry. I felt like I just walked into a storybook. The colors were so vibrant and the contrast between the two snakes complementing one another led your eye to the eagle displayed in the middle of the garden. The eagle towered over everything else and its reason for its extraordinarily high flight was thought to bring him nearer to the sun and in close proximity to the gods. The stories linked to each piece were very interesting, and it is something that I wouldn’t mind hearing again.
The artist, Niki de Saint Phalle, inspired me most. Her hard work and dedication to each and every piece of artwork in the garden was inspiring. Hearing the stories of her past and how she came to California was interesting, and I couldn’t believe she gave this garden as a gift! Before she died, she had said that California has been a rebirth for her soul and this garden was a gift to her region. The eagle is very personal to her and she said the garden was a dream to create a wonderful legacy for a place she dearly loved. I learned that she remained totally immersed in the creation of this project until her death at age 71!
I am very happy that I was able to experience the beauty of Queen Califia’s Magical Circle and learn about its history and culture. Its vibrancy and brilliant display of mosaic ornamentation still leaves me in awe. I was able to capture some pictures that I hope you will enjoy and get an idea of what I experienced. I highly recommend visiting this garden, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.