A look at the El Cid statue in Balboa Park.

El Cid sculpture in Balboa Park, by artist Anna Hyatt Huntington.
El Cid sculpture in Balboa Park, by artist Anna Hyatt Huntington.

Near the center of Balboa Park, between the San Diego Museum of Art and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, you’ll find a 23-foot high bronze statue of El Cid. The legendary hero of Spain is mounted on his horse Babieca and proudly holds a spear and shield.

The striking sculpture is formally called El Cid Campeador and was created in 1927 by Anna Hyatt Huntington, a famous American sculptor who during her life won numerous awards and commissions. Most known for her lifelike animal sculptures, she is remembered for being the first woman to create a public monument in New York City. Her Joan of Arc was also New York City’s first monument dedicated to a female historical figure.

Anna Hyatt Huntington was married to Archer Milton Huntington, a wealthy philanthropist and art enthusiast, who founded The Hispanic Society of America. He made the very first contribution to the nearby San Diego Museum of Art, in the form of the painting María at La Granja, by famed Spanish post-impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida.

The El Cid in Balboa Park is one of several identical statues. The original stands in front of the Hispanic Society in New York City. Other copies stand in Seville, San Francisco, and Buenos Aires.

It seems that when the statue was installed in Balboa Park in 1930, there was a good deal of public comment about the horse’s unsightly posterior, and a debate over the direction it should face! To the relief of many, the horse’s rear end faces away from the central square and nearby buildings!

A much smaller horse sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington can be enjoyed a short distance to the north of El Cid, right next to the San Diego Museum of Art. It’s called Youth Taming the Wild.

El Cid Campeador, presented by the Hispanic Society of America in 1930.
El Cid Campeador, presented by the Hispanic Society of America in 1930.
El Cid, with Balboa Park's House of Hospitality in the background.
El Cid, with Balboa Park’s House of Hospitality in the background.
East side of El Cid. Mingei Museum in background.
East side of El Cid. The Mingei Museum is in background.
Balboa Park's free shuttle passes the El Cid statue on a sunny day.
Balboa Park’s free shuttle passes the El Cid statue on a sunny day.

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Truth rendered with small touches of light.

Sorolla and America special exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art.
Sorolla and America special exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art.

Light is the physical means by which my eyes see. But I often don’t see true light.

Light is a mixture of myriad colors. But I often don’t see those many colors.

Yesterday I was struck by a few small touches of rare light. My eyes widened with astonishment during a few joyful, delicious moments of revelation.

I was very fortunate and privileged to be a given a special tour of the amazing Sorolla exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Catherine Jones, a docent at the museum, provided an excellent introduction to the light-dabbed paintings of a very important artist that the world has often overlooked.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida was a Spanish post-Impressionist painter who won several major art awards and popular fame while he lived, but who soon became forgotten with the advent of the modern abstract movement in the early twentieth century. His stylistically varied and often unusually angled images contain applications of light like I’ve never before seen. Bits of reflection and exquisite luster, and sheens of revealed color, pulled me into a world where the true essence of a subject seems to shine out like magic, but in a very natural way.

I could have gazed at his emotionally stirring, always fascinating paintings for the entire day!

María at La Granja, courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
María at La Granja, courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.

The above painting, María at La Granja, was painted by Sorolla in 1907. In it you can see Sorolla’s famous application of light. The piece was donated to the San Diego Museum of Art in 1925 by Archer Huntington, philanthropist and founder of The Hispanic Society of America. The very first work of art to enter the collection, today María at La Granja is probably the most recognized image in the entire museum.

Joaquin Sorolla Portrait of President Taft, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Joaquin Sorolla’s Portrait of President Taft, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joaquin Sorolla’s Portrait of President Taft was commissioned by the president in 1909. It is one of many canvases in a special exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art assembled from museums throughout the world. Most of Sorolla’s important works are present, including Another Marguerite (1892), which was awarded a gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid and first prize at the Chicago International Exhibition, and Sad Inheritance (1899), which was awarded the Grand Prix and a medal of honor at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, and the medal of honor at the National Exhibition in Madrid in 1901.

The two paintings that I’ve posted here hardly do justice to the full range of Sorolla’s splendor. His sun-splashed scenes of beach life in Valencia, his diverse and stunning portraits, his detailed scenes of life in Spain, all the essence and astonishing light that he captured, must be experienced firsthand to be most fully appreciated.

These works by Sorolla are on display for a limited time at the San Diego Museum of Art. If you can, you really should go see them! The special exhibition ends August 26, 2014.

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Mural of Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park.

Front entrance of Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park.
Front entrance of Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park.

Like the nearby WorldBeat Center, the Centro Cultural de la Raza is housed in a colorful old water tower in Balboa Park. Its huge mural draws the attention of those heading up Park Boulevard, just north of downtown San Diego.

Centro Cultural de la Raza is a cultural center with an emphasis on Chicano, Mexican, Indigenous and Latino art. It hosts many exhibits and artistic performances throughout the year. Ballet Folklorico dancing is one of the educational classes that are available.

I walked around the building and took a bunch of photos of the huge public mural!

Starting around the old water tower, checking out the artwork.
Starting around the old water tower, checking out the artwork.
Centro Cultural de la Raza seen from Park Boulevard.
Centro Cultural de la Raza seen from Park Boulevard.
Snake-entwined female in front of moon.
Snake-entwined female in front of glowing moon.
Diverse images from Latino culture in the large mural.
Diverse images from Latino culture in the richly detailed mural.
Geronimo crowned by a radiant sun.
A kneeling Geronimo crowned by a radiant sun.
Hispanic music, education and optimism are portrayed.
Hispanic music, education and optimism are portrayed.
Colorful mural contains many animals from the Americas.
Colorful mural contains many animals from the Americas.
A ram and corn are among the many images.
A ram and corn are among the many images.
Circling around toward back of the water tower.
Circling around toward back of the water tower.
Mesoamerican pyramid in a richly painted scene.
Mesoamerican pyramid in a beautifully painted scene.
Stylized face watches from Centro Cultural de la Raza.
Stylized ancient face watches from Centro Cultural de la Raza.
Latino family stands proudly in the San Diego mural.
Latino family stands proudly in the San Diego mural.
Eyes seem to rise out of the ground.
Eyes seem to rise out of the ground.
Nearby utility box made into a work of art.
Nearby utility box made into a work of art.
This crazy face made me laugh.
This crazy face made me laugh.
This appears to be an Aztec warrior.
This appears to be an Aztec warrior.

UPDATE!

When I posted these photos, I really didn’t know much about the mural. After doing some online research, I’ve learned the 240 by 18 feet mural was painted by nine artists, each responsible for a section. The mural painting project was headed by Antonia Perez. The Geronimo artwork was the work of Victor Ochoa, one of the co-founders of El Centro Cultural de la Raza in 1970.

Here are additional photos I took in early 2021, with a better camera under brighter light conditions…

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Unexpected treasures of music in Balboa Park.

R. Jelani Eddington rehearses on the Spreckels Organ.
R. Jelani Eddington rehearses on the Spreckels Organ.

Take an amble through San Diego’s amazing Balboa Park and you never know what interesting or beautiful thing you might randomly stumble upon. Early this afternoon I was extremely fortunate!

It isn’t uncommon to hear the music of amateur street musicians throughout the gigantic urban park. Performers of all ages can be found in every nook and cranny playing a harp, a guitar, a violin, drums–you name it–hoping for a tip from generous visitors. Professional musicians, however, play in concerts that are scheduled, publicized, and attended by large, expectant audiences. Usually.

My first lucky discovery was stumbling upon famed theatre organist R. Jelani Eddington in a lengthy rehearsal for Monday night’s International Organ Festival at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Apart from a wedding party taking photographs by the pavilion’s elegant colonnade, and a few passing tourists, I seemed to have the amazing performance all to myself. Wow! The Spreckels Organ was producing pure magic, as the king of instruments was handled with world-class skill. What a privilege to listen!

R. Jelani Eddington was 2001 Theatre Organist Of The Year.
R. Jelani Eddington was 2001 Theatre Organist Of The Year.
The lawn of Balboa Park's International Cottages is empty.
The lawn of Balboa Park’s International Cottages is empty.

My second sensational discovery took place at the more modest International Cottages stage not far away. A duet was playing excellent, moving music to an all but nonexistent audience. It seems the performance was very poorly publicized, or not at all.

Reflections: Jerry and Angie, is the name of the very talented group that was being featured by the House of the United States of America. They were playing folk songs and classic American tunes with banjo and simple, heart-stirring vocals. I’m a sucker for this type of music, and I loved listening to She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain, Country Roads, God Bless America and more. I got a kick at how they treated me and the half a dozen others on the lawn like a regular audience, asking us to sing along and providing interesting comments on many songs. I’ve never heard a banjo so well played.

Reflections is Jerry on banjo and Angie with vocals.
Reflections is Jerry on banjo and Angie with vocals.

Balboa Park contains endless magical surprises!

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Anthony Newman plays the Spreckels Organ.

People arrive early to get good seats for tonight's organ concert.
People arrive very early to get good seats for tonight’s organ concert.

Mere pictures and words are inadequate to describe the fantastic concert I enjoyed this evening in Balboa Park. Tonight was the first Monday concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion of the Summer International Organ Festival.

The special guest organist was Anthony Newman, widely considered one of the foremost Baroque musicians in the United States. He’s made countless recordings, won numerous awards, performed at New York City’s prestigious Lincoln Center more than 60 times, and was described by Wynton Marsalis as “The High Priest of Bach.” Tonight’s concert, I’m glad to say, was jam packed with Johann Sebastian Bach–my absolute favorite composer!

Anthony Newman seemed superhuman at times. He played difficult pieces with ease, crispness and energy.  It was flawless poetry and simply amazing.  The concert was over much too soon!

Here are a few pics!

Spreckels Organ Society membership table and a smile.
Spreckels Organ Society membership table and a smile.
Anticipating first concert of Summer International Organ Festival.
Anticipating first concert of the Summer International Organ Festival.
Big banner on Organ Pavilion's colonnade announces the event.
Big banner on Organ Pavilion’s colonnade announces the free event.
Rolling out the red carpet for great organist Anthony Newman.
Rolling out the red carpet for great American organist Anthony Newman.
Flag and a bronze plaque of the historic pavilion.
Flag and a bronze plaque of the historic pavilion.
Beautiful pavilion is a treat for the eye in changing light.
Beautiful building is a treat for the eye in changing light.
Elegant peek by organ assistant at the growing crowd.
Elegant peek by organ assistant at the growing crowd.
Dr. Carol Williams, civic organist, announces guest musician.
Dr. Carol Williams, San Diego’s Civic Organist, announces guest artist.
Famed Baroque organist Anthony Newman greets audience.
Famed Baroque organist Anthony Newman greets audience.
A masterful performance on the Spreckels Organ begins.
A masterful performance on the Spreckels Organ begins.

Those pipes you see on the left side of the stage form the new Centennial Tuba rank, soon to be added to the Spreckels Organ for its one hundredth anniversary on New Year’s Eve!

Anthony Newman acknowledges enthusiastic applause.
Anthony Newman acknowledges long, enthusiastic applause.
KUSI television cameraman records a portion of the event.
KUSI television cameraman records a portion of the event.
The lights come on in the twilight and the pavilion becomes magical.
The lights come on in the twilight and the pavilion becomes magical.
There are 1400 embedded lights in the main structure and colonnades.
There are 1400 embedded lights in the main structure and colonnades.

The Spreckels Organ Pavilion was built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. You can observe similar plaster ornamentation on the Spanish Colonial Revival style buildings that line El Prado, in the center of Balboa Park.

Night descends and people stretch their legs during intermission.
Night descends and people stretch their legs during intermission.

My camera is worthless at night, so I recorded only half of the evening.  But the music throughout was amazing!  What a brilliant start to the 2014 International Organ Festival!

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House of Scotland Pipe Band in Balboa Park.

House of Scotland Pipe Band performs at Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
House of Scotland Pipe Band performs at Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Today’s free Sunday organ concert at Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion featured the amazing House of Scotland Pipe Band! The House of Scotland makes its home in the International Cottages just steps away from the pavilion.

I’ve always loved bagpipe music. It’s even better, if that’s possible, when accompanied by Dr. Carol Williams, San Diego’s famous Civic Organist, on the majestic Spreckels Organ. The large-lunged instruments combine their resonance, and with the addition of a booming drum, the melodies that are produced really stir the blood. I wish the concert had gone on all afternoon!

Songs included Highland Cathedral, Flower of Scotland, Blue Bells, Amazing Grace, Scotland the Brave, and The Ballad of Glencoe.

Raising and twirling the baton in time with great bagpipe music.
Raising and twirling the baton in time with great bagpipe music.
Dr. Carol Williams accompanies bagpipes with Spreckels Organ.
Dr. Carol Williams accompanies bagpipes on the Spreckels Organ.
The big booming drum of the House of Scotland!
The big booming drum of the House of Scotland!
Balboa Park visitors mingle with musicians after the stirring concert.
Balboa Park visitors mingle with musicians after the stirring concert.

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Drama and music in Balboa Park’s Zoro Garden.

Actors rehearse A Nation of Pain in Balboa Park's small Zoro Garden.
Actors rehearse A Nation of Pain in Balboa Park’s small Zoro Garden.

Today during my walk through Balboa Park, I noticed that the small Zoro Garden has become a venue for summer weekend entertainment. Usually the shady, sinuous, amphitheatre-like garden is left to the butterflies, who flutter here and there in sunbeams above ragged beds of colorful flowers.

As I walked down, actors were rehearsing for a comedic play on the bare dirt center of the garden. At two o’clock a musical performance began, and I listened while chowing down on a polish sausage. I love Balboa Park!

Garden Theatre Festival takes place during the summer in Balboa Park.
Garden Theatre Festival takes place during the summer in Balboa Park.
People enter the seldom-used, charming Zoro Garden.
People enter the seldom-used, charming Zoro Garden.
This was a nudist colony during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition!
This was a nudist colony during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition!
Butterfly among flowers in the small Zoro Garden.
Butterfly among flowers in the small Zoro Garden.
Zoro Garden dedicated to butterflies in 2007.
Zoro Garden dedicated to butterflies in 2007.
Jennie Buss' Band plays warm-hearted music for onlookers.
Jennie Buss’ Band plays warm-hearted music for onlookers.
Folks enjoy a musical performance in Balboa Park.
Folks enjoy an intimate musical performance in Balboa Park.

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Old Hotel Churchill in downtown San Diego.

Faded castle on side of San Diego's old Hotel Churchill.
Faded castle on side of San Diego’s old Hotel Churchill.

My walks through downtown often take me past a large, dilapidated building with a giant faded castle painted on its side. This now sad sight was once the splendid Hotel Churchill, the destination of tourists visiting San Diego a hundred years ago.

The Hotel Churchill was built to accommodate visitors to the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in nearby Balboa Park. The Arthurian theme made visitors feel like they’d entered Camelot, much like the Excalibur Hotel does in Las Vegas today. The building has been abandoned for many years. I remember watching the San Diego Fire Department using the tall edifice for practice, breaking through one window from the top of a firetruck’s ladder.

In 2003 the city designated the Hotel Churchill a local historical landmark. There are plans afoot to restore the old building and convert it into affordable housing.

Touristy hotel was built for 1915 Panama California Exposition.
Touristy hotel was built for 1915 Panama California Exposition.
Old door with spears and portcullis is locked shut.
Old door with fanciful drawbridge and portcullis is locked shut.
Looking up a rusty old fire escape.
Looking up a rusty old fire escape.
Hotel Churchill, a local historical landmark,awaits restoration.
Hotel Churchill, a local historical landmark, awaits restoration.

Here’s a pic I took in February 2015. The old hotel has been fenced off, awaiting restoration…

Hotel Churchill seen in early morning from across C Street.
Hotel Churchill seen in early morning from across C Street.

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Folks enjoy House of Austria lawn program.

Dancers from House of Austria in Balboa Park.
Dancers from House of Austria in Balboa Park.

I got a few pics of another Sunday afternoon lawn program at Balboa Park’s International Cottages. This weekend it was Austria’s turn!

Dancing, singing and food were abundant for the entertainment of anyone interested in Austrian culture.  Many in the crowd wore traditional folk costumes.  There was a beauty queen and opera performances and it all concluded with many participants singing the popular favorite Edelweiss.

Austrian beauty queen smiles for my camera!
Austrian beauty queen smiles for my camera!
Folks watch lawn program of House of Austria.
Folks watch lawn program of House of Austria.
Food tent has sausage and other tasty Austrian food.
Food tent has sausage and other tasty Austrian food.
Everyone applauds a fantastic operatic duet.
Everyone applauds a fantastic operatic duet.

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Exciting start to San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon!

People arrive at dawn to participate in Rock 'n Roll Marathon.
People arrive at dawn to participate in Rock ‘n Roll Marathon.

I woke up very early this morning to check out the start of today’s big San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. I’d never been to the event in past years, so the magnitude of the race really floored me. The west part of Balboa Park and many blocks of Sixth Avenue were packed with super energetic humanity!

Here are a bunch of pics!

Dozens of UPS trucks served as the gear check.
Dozens of UPS trucks served as the gear check.
Marathon runners warm up in west Balboa Park.
Marathon runners warm up in west Balboa Park.
San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon corrals fill up.
San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon corrals begin to fill up.
Just minutes before the big marathon starts!
Just minutes before the big San Diego marathon starts!
Thousands are ready to race at Rock 'n Roll Marathon.
Thousands are ready to race at the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon.
Athletes With disabilities are first to begin the race!
Athletes with disabilities are first to begin the race!
They're off from the start line!
They’re off from the start line!
Full marathon runners get ready to begin big race.
Full marathon runners get ready to begin their race for glory.
Lots of photographers record the race action.
Lots of photographers record the colorful action.
San Diego Rock 'n Roll full marathoners go!
San Diego Rock ‘n Roll full marathoners go!
Runners start up Sixth Avenue with great excitement.
Runners start up Sixth Avenue with great excitement.
Photos were being taken all over the place.
Photos were being taken all over the place.
Racers pass announcer stand and American flag.
Racers pass announcer stand, San Diego mayor and American flag.
Runners wave at Cameron of Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Runners wave at Cameron of Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
KUSI reporter Kerri Lane looks bored.
KUSI television reporter Kerri Lane between live shots.

And now I’m hungry for breakfast!  Walking back toward home, I snap a couple more photos!

Half marathoners gather into the corrals for their race.
Half marathoners gather into the corrals for their race.
Late arrivers walk up Sixth Avenue from downtown.
Late arrivers walk up Sixth Avenue from downtown.

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