In October 2003, Niki de Saint Phalle's Queen Califia's Magical Circle opened in Escondido, California, located in North San Diego County. The garden promised to become an instantaneous cultural landmark for the region, a special and enchanted place where families can play, discover and interact with large, brilliantly-colored mosaic sculptures that represent stories and symbols from the state's mythic and historic past.
The only American sculpture garden and the last major international project created by Niki de Saint Phalle (born France, 1930-2002). Inspired by California's mythic, historic and cultural r oots, the garden consists of nine large- scale sculptures, a circular snake wall” and maze entry way, sculpturally integrated bench seating, and native shrub and trees planted within the interior plaza and along the outer perimeter.
Location Situated within a 12-acre natural habitat in the Iris Sankey Arboretum in Kit Carson Park on a parcel of land donated by the City of Escondido. The park's entrance is located five minutes from I-15 (Via Rancho Parkway Exit) at the corner of Bear Valley Parkway and Mary Lane.
Completion October 2003
Artist Niki de Saint Phalle
2003 "Founders"Leadership Niki Charitable Art Foundation Trustees:
Bloum Cardenas, Dave Stevenson and Marcelo Zitelli
City of Escondido, California:
The Honorable Lori Holt Pfeiler, Mayor of Escondido Don Anderson, Director of Community Services Susan Pollack, Consultant, Public Art Program
Ted Kilman, Chair, Public Art Commission
Cost The garden was entirely financed by Niki de Saint Phalle, with land acquisition, site grading, landscaping, maintenance, and operations donated by the City of Escondido.
Key Architectural Features
SnakeWall and Maze:
An undulating circular wall measuring 400 feet in length (with varying heights from 4 to 9 feet) surrounds the garden. Monumental sculpted serpents writhe along the top of the wall, their curved bodies forming a pattern of solids and voids that allows visitors to see land scape vistas beyond the garden. The snake wall” opens into a maze whose walls and floors are covered with black, white, and mirrored tiles. Once through the maze, visitors enter into the central courtyard.
Surface Materials: The wall is largely faced in natural-colored Mexican pebble stones while the snakes (as well as the other sculptures) feature tens of thousands of individually hand-cut glass, ceramic, and stone mosaics. Several sections of the wall are also decorated with high-fired ceramic plaques, each incised with Native American rock art symbols, and planetary forms and hearts as well as the hand imprints and signatures of the artist's team and family members.
Construction: Built from polystyrene encased in urethane skin with applied fiberglass coating over a steel armature. Designed from the artist's original maquettes with computer-assisted modeling and prototyping.
Fabrication: La Paloma, Sun Valley, CA; Ron McPherson, owner Mosaic Installation: ArtMosaic Inc., El Cajon, CA; Lech Juretko, owner
Three benches faced in travertine marble and river rocks are situated along the eastern, northern and southern sections of the snake wall. Each measures approximately 13 to 20 feet in length (with varying heights).
Designer: Pierre Marie LeJeune, an artist and designer based in Les Andelys, France
Major Sculptural Features
There are nine freestanding sculptures in the garden, with symbols and forms freely drawn from Native American, Pre-Columbian, and Mexican art as well as the artist's own fantastic imagery.
Queen Califia and Eagle Throne:
Dimensions: 24 x 22 x 20 feet
Construction: Built of polystyrene encased in urethane skin with applied fiberglass coating over a steel armature. Designed from the artist's original maquettes with computer-assisted modeling.
Fabrication: La Paloma, Sun Valley, CA
Mosaic Installation: Art Mosaic Inc., El Cajon, CA
120 feet in diameter
Cathead Totem, 11.6 x 6 x 4 feet
Birdhead Totem, 13.4 x 7 x 2.9 feet Yelling Man Totem, 16.x 5 x 2.8 feet Bullhead Totem, 17 x 6 x 3 feet
Untitled Totem [Bird on a Square], 21 x 6 x 4 feet
Kingfisher Totem, 14 x 5 x 4 feet
Step Totem, 13 x 3 x 8.6 feet
Snake Totem, 16 feet high x 4 feet in diameter
Construction: Working from original clay maquettes, totems are made of polystyrene encased in urethane skin with applied fiberglass coating over a steel armature.
Fabrication: Art Mosaic Inc., El Cajon, CA
Mosaic Installation: Art Mosaic Inc., El Cajon, CA
Native trees and plantings are sited along th e garden's perimeter and behind each of the three benches in the interior. Plant materials include:
Trees – Coastal Live Oak, Valley Oak, Canyon Oak Shrubs – California Sagebrush, Brush Poppy,White Sage Cactus and Aloes – Prickly Pear, San Pedro Cactus
Ground Cover– Dwarf Coyote Bush, Natural California Lilac
Landscape Architects: Deneen Powell Atelier, San Diego, CA; Jeri Deneen and Jon Powell, principals
Media Contact: Kristina Owens, Public Art Consultant – (760) 839-4519, firstname.lastname@example.org c/o City of Escondido, Public Art Commission, 201 N. Broadway, Escondido, CA 92025 www.queencalifia.org