Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Captivating Bead-like, Mosaic Sculptures!

mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
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.

mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
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.

mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
Some places even offer a view of Queen Califia, herself!

mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
And there's one adorable baby snake, perched on top of her mom.

mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
Here are two facing snake heads as viewed from outside the wall...

mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
And here are the same two heads viewed from inside the garden.

mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
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!


mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
Under her bird is a golden egg (of course)!

mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
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...

mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
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.


mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
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!

mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
mosaic sculpture, Queen Califia's Magical Circle by Niki De Saint Phalle, photograph by Robin Atkins
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.

17 comments:

  1. How long did it take you to remember to breath again? WOW!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ah...very reminiscent of Park Guell by Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous4:18 AM

    Wow!!! What can I say? I have no adequate comment available at present.

    There is a place in Hannover where there are works by Niki De Saint Phalle to be seen. Here and now I decide to finally go there this summer. Your blog post gave me the final kick. (Sometimes one needs a kick in the ... to get down to doing something.)

    Love the snakes. I was born in a Year of the Snake by the Chinese calender.

    Thanks and greetings,
    Sabine

    ReplyDelete
  4. so, so beautiful! Thanks for all the photos.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Funky! I love those blues!! Thanks for sharing these gorgeous photos=:)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow! That bird totem just is beyond belief as is the underbelly shots. I've always loved mosaics in the sense that they look neat and I've never had the courage to do them, because working with broken glass for me, would be like working with a torch...an invitation for diseaster. I liked the snake from the inside far better than from the outside. What a lot of wonderful work! I'm so glad you got to see it! What a perk!

    ReplyDelete
  7. To All ~ Glad you enjoyed these photos!

    To Brenda ~ Yes, I see the similarities. Enjoyed the pictures of Park Guell and hope to get there some day.

    To Sabrina ~ Oh do let me know when you're going to Hannover!

    Mary ~ Yes, it definitely was a huge perk! ...As was staying with you in Aurora!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Love the photos even if they are snakes! At least they look harmless the way they're done. I love all the rich, bright colors. The blues on the underside of the bird are gorgeous. I've been to San Diego many times but have never seen this garden/park. I can't wait to see what you do with this inspiration. I can easily see the comparison between the mosaics and beading.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for the wonderful photographs Robin. I'd never heard of this artist, but love her work. I enjoyed following the links you provided. Liz

    ReplyDelete
  10. I know what I have to visit my next trip to San Diego.
    Thanks for sharing the great photos and history.

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a Beautiful place. Lucky you to get to see it in person. It reminds me a little bit of the Gaudi Gaol Park in Barcelona. All I could say was WOW!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Awesome! Amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hello Robin,
    What amazing photos you posted. I've always loved her work, it is so neat and inspiring. It reminds me of Gaudi. Did you know that the interior of her own home was covered in tiles too? I remember reading an article about it when she died - I think her kitchen was covered in mirrors! You photos are of such great quality, a real pleasure to watch and so is your work. Thanks
    Laurence (new bloggeuse)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Robin,
    Thank you for the super nice comment you just left on my blog. I needed that today!
    Juju

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Robin:
    I don't know if you remember me, but you've visited my blog a few times before. I have many beads that need to find a home. None are plastic. Go to my profile and email me from there puting your name in the email subject box so I know it is you. We can talk in emails, rather than here on blog.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Robin, I come to your blog for the colours, I think. Fabulous, as always. I'm filing this in my mental To-Do list for if I'm ever in that area. What fun it would be when my kids are a bit older.

    ReplyDelete
  17. WOW................Thanks for sharing:)

    ReplyDelete

Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!