After a year of maintenance, sculpture garden re-opens

After a year of maintenance, sculpture garden re-opens
Eames Shaw finds himself at a dead end in the maze wall. Many of the mirrored tiles were replaced after more than a decade of wear and tear from weather and occasional vandals. Photo by Ellen Wright

ESCONDIDO — “Queen Califia’s Magical Circle” sculpture garden in Kit Carson Park re-opened to the public the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. after undergoing maintenance.

The park is only open when volunteer docents are available to prevent vandalism and excessive wear and tear on the mosaic tile sculptures.

On Feb. 14, visitors came to enjoy the whimsical garden by artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
The entrance begins with a black and white tiled maze. Mirrors dot the maze and caution tape is a reminder of the broken mirrored tiles that were just replaced.

In the center are large totems with snakes, birds and whimsical creatures surrounding the major work “The Eagle.”

The mythical Amazonian goddess Queen Califia stands atop the eagle with long tendril locks flowing behind her.
Visitors can walk underneath “The Eagle” and will find a ceiling of rich blue celestial images.
De Saint Phalle was influenced by the Native American culture, which is evident in the totems she created, and the imagery embedded in the tile walls.

California is named after Queen Califia whose origins begin in Spain.
Spanish writer Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo introduced the Amazon goddess in the 1500s. He wrote that Queen Califia ruled over an island of beautiful women.

When Spanish explorers saw Baja, they believed it to be an island and dubbed it California, after the island ruled by the mythical goddess.
Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the Spanish explorer who first landed in San Diego, was documented using the title “California.”

The garden has been open since 2003 and has been closed for the past year because extensive maintenance was needed and broken tiles posed a safety hazard.

Associate Planner for the city, Kristina Owens, said the park would be open more once there is a larger pool of reliable volunteer docents.

She also said the gardens are still undergoing maintenance, which is evident on some of the tile walls which are missing pieces.
There is also some visible water damage throughout the sculpture garden, which is a result of some of the materials not being weather proof.

The garden will open March 14, April 11 and May 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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