Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Captivating Bead-like, Mosaic Sculptures!
Welcome to a magical experience!!! Last weekend, while teaching in San Diego, California, my wonderful host family took me to Queen Califia's Magical Circle in Escondido. I'd previously seen artist Niki De Saint Phalle's grand mosaic sculptures in front of the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, and expected to be delighted by more of her work. Yet I was totally unprepared for the enchanting experience of Queen Califia riding atop her bird chariot in a garden of totems circled by whimsical snakes. My pictures don't do it justice, because it's being there, child-like in dazed wonderment, that is so magical.
The perimeter is a wall topped with colorful undulating snakes.
In some places, you can peek through a space between the base of the wall and the snake's upward looping body, and catch a glimpse of the wonders inside the circle.
Some places even offer a view of Queen Califia, herself!
And there's one adorable baby snake, perched on top of her mom.
Here are two facing snake heads as viewed from outside the wall...
And here are the same two heads viewed from inside the garden.
There's only one opening in the snake wall to allow entrance into the garden. But before you arrive, you must pass through a maze of mosaic tile and mirror walls. Once you navigate the maze, you're finally able to get the full effect of the Queen on her bird!
Under her bird is a golden egg (of course)!
Here's a detail of the bird's five rather elephantine legs, each with bird-like feet.
Here's the glorious underside of the bird's belly...
The Queen is surrounded by totem-like sculptures. Here are a few of them. You can see the inside of the snake wall surrounding them.
I should have taken more detail shots... The look of all the little stones which make up many of the mosaics reminds me of bead embroidery. In fact, being there made me want to go right home and start a new piece!
If you ever get to the San Diego area, try not to miss this amazing place, and give yourself time to be there... I wanted to stay there for hours and hours.
More about Niki
This morning, with a little extra time and a nice cup of coffee, I decided to research about Niki de Saint Phalle. First checking Amazon, I found several books about her and her work. Of these, this one seems like it might actually capture the way Niki's art spoke to me.
Here is another book, published by the Mingei Museum. In the introduction I found a cogent statement about Niki's work: "In the passage of our lives we are, indeed, fortunate who feel our spirits quicken by the seeing of visual works of art - tangible expressions of innate creative powers wanting and bursting to be expressed by all human beings.... Playful, fresh, frolicsome, vigorous, soaring, creative, different, colorful, uninhibited, innovative, energizing, spontaneous, imaginative, delightful, benevolent, stimulating, powerful - all of these adjectives have been used in an attempt to describe what cannot be put into words, the buoyant and vast spirit expressed in the art of Niki de Saint Phalle.... It is life-changing. She has paved the way for the rich diversity of the 21 st Century and the end of superficial distinctions, including insider, outsider, folk, craft and fine art.... The international language of art knows no barriers of time, place, or race. It speaks directly to each of us personally according to our receptivity and changing perception......"
An amazingly prolific artist, Niki's large installations include: the Tarot Garden in Italy, the Stravinsky Fountain in Paris, a Niki Museum in Nasu, Japan, and the Noah's Ark in Jerusalem. As Sabrina has already commented in this post, there's also a grand collection of Niki's works at the Sprengel Museum in Hannover, Germany. If you'd like to read a short summary about Niki, Wikipedia's entry about her includes many good links.
Here is one other link that may be of interest... It's a blog all about mosaics, with a wonderful post, full of great pictures, about Niki and her art.