Niki de Saint Phalle’s Grande Step Totem.

One fantastic sculpture by renowned French-American sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle presently stands at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. Those who pass by the cultural center on their way up North Escondido Boulevard can’t fail to miss it.

I stopped by to have a look at the monumental sculpture, which is titled Grande Step Totem.

A plaque near its base is weathered and cracked and is difficult to read now. I’ve tried to transcribe the English portion of it accurately:

Grande Step Totem

Based in Native American spirituality, Saint Phalle’s Totem is more solemn than much of her work. With a muted color palette and subject matter, this piece encourages introspection. The Totem returned to Escondido on December 19, 2012 after spending the summer on view with several other Saint Phalle pieces on Park Avenue in New York City.

NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE

2001

Polyurethane foam resin, steel armature, ceramic tiles, stained glass, tumbled stone.

As you can see, some construction work was being done around the base of the sculpture when I visited last weekend. Here are my photos…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

The most magical circus in the world!

Today I was wowed by amazing, dazzling, stupefying performances at the most magical circus in the world!

I know for a fact that I experienced the most powerful magic. I saw it, heard it, smelled it, got goosebumps. I felt magic in my sudden laughter and in my soaring heart. I saw magic in the joyful smiles of each circus performer.

The Zoppé Family Circus is performing this weekend at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. They are a circus whose history goes back to 1842, when, according to their website:

“. . . a young French street performer named Napoline Zoppé wandered into a plaza in Budapest, Hungary, looking for work. There, his eyes glanced upon a beautiful equestrian ballerina named Ermenegilda, who captured the hearts and minds of the crowd with her grace and showmanship. More important, this talented beauty captured Napoline’s heart.

Unfortunately, Napoline was a clown, and Ermenegilda’s father saw him as beneath her and disapproved of their relationship. The two ran away to Venice, Italy, and founded the circus that still bears their name . . .”

Today, the Zoppé Family Circus is filling our world with the time-tested magic of an Old World traditional circus. As Giovanni Zoppé explained when he welcomed the audience to the show, an authentic circus is all about family, tradition and struggle, and happiness and heartbreak.

I could see that the performers are also motivated by passion and a very deep love for what they do.

I spoke to Giovanni briefly, and he was such a nice person. I mean really nice.

After I got home, I did some reading and learned: “Giovanni Zoppé, the director of the circus and a sixth-generation performer, says the show aims higher than what passes for circuses these days. ‘We try to touch every emotion during the show,’ he says. ‘They’ll laugh, they’ll cry, and they’ll feel for the characters. It’s more of an event than a show.’

His performance as Nino the clown was hilarious, winning and utterly human. It was perfect. It was masterful.

The entire spectacle was fantastic.

Under the big top, in the spotlight at the center of the ring, the magic of the Zoppé Family Circus never ceased. There was magic in the acrobats, trapeze act, jugglers and tightwire act. There was magic in the trick horse riding and the lady who shot an arrow with perfect accuracy using her feet while doing a handstand. There was magic in the mustachioed fellow who flew through the air absurdly with a rope tied to his hair. He spun like a top, circled high above the ring, soared like a bird. There was magic in the glittering costumes, and the smell of sawdust and buttery popcorn, and the excited chatter and laughter of children. There was magic when Nino couldn’t find his hat, then couldn’t reach it when it dangled from the top of a broomstick that he held.

There was magic in every single moment.

My camera failed to take good photos in the subdued light under the big top. But I got some photos in front of the tent during a humorous pre-show performance.

In my photos you can see a little bit of that magic. And much of the humanity.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Natural beauty near the Sikes Adobe.

Early this morning, before the summer sun could make hiking very hot, I enjoyed a slow, quiet walk near the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead in Escondido.

I followed the Coast to Crest Trail for a bit, passed over Kit Carson Creek, and gazed off toward the willows and sycamores that line the edge of Lake Hodges and the San Dieguito River.

I lifted my camera when my eyes happened to perceive another instance of natural beauty.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Photos of Queen Califia’s Magical Circle!

Come with me. We’re about to enter Queen Califia’s Magical Circle.

We will step from our day-to-day routine into a mysterious maze of fractured white and black, turns and mirrors. We will suddenly emerge into a strange spiritual realm. A dreamlike surreal somewhere beneath our ordinary experience. A secret cosmos.

We will move through a fertile landscape teeming with faces and essential forms and wildly dancing colors and true symbols. Alive with infinitely circling snakes and joyfully soaring birds. We will find ourselves in Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, where our eyes will perceive our own existence more clearly.

Where life is triumphant.

These are the hands of those who assembled the magic.

That is the hand of sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle, who envisioned this magical circle and breathed into it her life.

(Click the photos of signs and they will enlarge for easier reading.)

You will learn:

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is the only American sculpture garden and the last major international project created by the renowned French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

Inspired by California’s mythic, historic and cultural roots, the garden consists of nine large-scale sculptures, a circular “snake wall” and maze entry way. The symbols and forms are freely drawn from Native American, Pre-Columbian and Mexican art as well as the artist’s own fantastic imagery.

Queen Califia and the Eagle Throne measures 24 x 22 x 20 feet. It is built of polystyrene encased in urethane skin with applied fiberglass coating over a steel armature.

Working from original clay maquettes, the eight totems were made in similar fashion. They are: Cathead Totem, Birdhead Totem, Yelling Man Totem, Bullhead Totem, Untitled Totem (Bird on a Square), Kingfisher Totem, Step Totem and Snake Totem.

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle uses a greater diversity of mosaic materials than seen in any of Niki de Saint Phalle’s other large-scale projects. For the first time she used polished and tumbled stones such as agates, quartzes and turquoise. The results are magical and ever changing.

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is nestled in a natural landscape within Escondido’s Kit Carson Park.

Niki’s original inspiration for the garden came while she was reading Assembling California by geologist John McPhee. There he discusses the legend of Queen Califia, a beautiful and powerful black Amazon queen who ruled over the island of California, a paradise of gold and riches.

The information sign includes an article concerning the opening of Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in 2003. “The garden promises to become an instantaneous cultural landmark for the San Diego region–a place where visitors can roam at will, play, touch, dream…”

…a shimmering, virtuoso display of mosaic art…

A short biography of Niki de Saint Phalle. She was born in France in 1930 and raised in New York. She first came to international prominence in 1961 as part of the influential “New Realists,” a group that also included Christo, Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely (whom she married in 1971). In 1994 she moved to La Jolla, where she lived until her death in 2002.

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle was completed one year after her death.

Other works of Niki de Saint Phalle can be enjoyed around San Diego. (You can find photos of them by searching this blog.)

Life raises new life.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A small memorial and The Aztec Warrior.

In Memory of Jesus A. Suarez del Solar Navarro. Was born in Tijuana, Mexico - died like a hero and he will live forever in our hearts.
In Memory of Jesus A. Suarez del Solar Navarro. Was born in Tijuana, Mexico – died like a hero and he will live forever in our hearts.

Today I walked through beautiful Kit Carson Park in Escondido. I was on my way to see Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, a world famous sculpture garden by Niki de Saint Phalle. It’s an extraordinary work of art that celebrates life. I’ll post many photos in the next day or two.

As I walked up a path near Eagle Scout Lake, I stumbled upon a small memorial under a tree. I looked down to read some words.

A family in Escondido's Kit Carson Park pauses to gaze at a small memorial.
A family in Escondido’s Kit Carson Park pauses to gaze at a small memorial.
American flags and The Aztec Warrior. Hero of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
American flags and The Aztec Warrior. Hero of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

The gigantic bronze leaves of Kit Carson Park.

Five enormous eucalyptus leaves seem to have fallen beside a walking path in Escondido’s lush, beautiful Kit Carson Park. You can find them near the adult softball fields, just above Tree Lake.

The huge leaves are cast in bronze. One is gently curved to form a bench. Two stand on their stems to form a graceful arch. One edgewise on the grass seems to be blowing in the wind. The end of one seems to have become pressed into the walking path by passing feet.

These five timeless leaves were created by artist Christine Oatman in 1991. Together they are titled Eucalyptus Leaf Court.

Late this morning I sat on the leaf bench and time stopped. I was very small. As if in a dream, the trees around me were gigantic.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Many caring, animal loving volunteers needed!

These cool guys with the San Diego Humane Society are looking for lots of animal loving volunteers! That might be you!
These cool guys with the San Diego Humane Society are looking for lots of animal loving volunteers! That might be you!

Do you live in San Diego? Do you love dogs, cats and other animals? The San Diego Humane Society needs your help!

I learned from two friendly guys in Balboa Park that the San Diego Humane Society needs lots and lots of new animal loving volunteers at their San Diego, Oceanside and Escondido campuses. Last week, an agreement with the City of San Diego has the humane society taking over the city’s animal control services. That’s an enormous job! That means literally thousands of more lost pets and “unwanted” critters to care for!

There are many volunteer opportunities. You can foster. You can walk dogs. You can love kittens. Yes, even cleaner-uppers are needed. The humane society already has over 5000 volunteers, but that’s not enough!

They really need your help! For more information, check out the San Diego Humane Society website here!

Spread the word!

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