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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
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
Community Community Escondido News

After a year of maintenance, sculpture garden re-opens

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.

Children check out one of the many totems at the center of the garden. Photo by Ellen WrightMary-Ann Erskine-Pourier and Dean Kelley enjoy a barbershop quartet, which Erskine-Pourier surprised Kelley with for Valentine’s Day. Photo by Ellen WrightQueen Califia, who California is named after, rides atop “The Eagle.” The eagle was chosen because Native American’s considered the eagle to be one of the most sacred animals. Photo by Ellen WrightA view from the back of the gardens shows Queen Califia poised in a dominating stance, with her long tendril locks flowing behind her. Photo by Ellen WrightThe Native American influence is evident in the totems throughout the garden. Some have cubbyholes large enough for children to crawl through. Photo by Ellen WrightUnderneath “The Eagle” is a rich blue celestial mosaic. Visitors explored the under belly of “The Eagle” and were given a quick reprieve from the heat. Photo by Ellen WrightThe foot of one of the totem poles offers children the opportunity to interact with the art. Photo by Ellen Wright


Nancie Mills Pipgras February 18, 2015 at 8:26 am

Great news for mosaic lovers and a wonderful article by an author who clearly loves and honors this phenomenal installation. I have share your photos and linked to this article on Mosaic Art NOW’s Facebook page. Thank you so very much for doing right by de Saint Phalle. She deserves this kind of attention/appreciation.

lichtenstein March 14, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Too bad the city of Escondido is stuck paying for this thing when neither the foundation or the artist paid taxes. The foundation that functions like a tax-free entity built the garden badly. They should pay for its repair and maintenance instead of $250,000. a year in travel and huge salaries for the trustees. Niki left the money to take care of her work and not their retirements. Trustees not respecting artists wishes and are only interested in enriching themselves. The Niki Charitable Foundation is not a charity- a tax scam.

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