Tiny Treasures-Queen Califia's Magical Circle

A detail of the stone, tile and mirror inlays

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is a large sculpture garden, in Escondido, by French artist, Niki de Saint Phalle.  It is a vibrant, colorful, bedazzled tribute to the mythical queen of California.  It is an absolute delight and a treat for children.  The garden is surrounded by a wall topped with huge serpents, which glitter with inlaided stone.  Entry requires passage through a low maze.  The central sculpture is a monumental depiction of the Queen on the back of an eagle.  She is surrounded by eight large totems.

The garden is similar to Parc Guell, by Gaudi, but de Saint Phalle’s figures have an earthy roundness.  Her work is often child-like with an intentional naïve quality.

There is a sculpture by de Saint Phalle  near the George Pompidou Center in Paris.  The artist moved to San Diego late in life.  Her other works in San Diego, include a snake sculpture in Balboa Park and the Sun Eagle at UCSD.

The garden is surrounded by a metal fence, so it can only be seen during the hours a docent is present, which are, unfortunately, very limited.  It is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, but only one Saturday per month.  The garden is located in the Iris Sankey Arboretum in Kit Carson Park, which is behind a school.  It is a short walk from the parking lot, along a dirt path, to the Magical Circle.  The garden is a convenient stop-over for a trip to the San Diego Safari Park, in neighboring San Pascal.


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