Suze Diaz …Last Thursday evening was a night of delicious food, eclectic music, magical art, and creative imagination at the California Center for the Arts’ Opening Reception for Niki de Saint Phalle: Mystical California exhibit. The reception included a preview of the show honoring the artist and
celebrating the fifteen-year anniversary of her sculpture garden gift to Escondido: Queen Califia’s Magical Circle.
Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) was a French-American painter who first came into international prominence in 1961. In 1994, de Saint Phalle moved to La Jolla, set up a new studio and became an active member of the San Diego arts scene, producing sculptures working with mirrors, glass, and polished stones. In 1999, her final international project, Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, started. Her original motivation for this sculpture garden was inspired by John McPhee’s book “Assembling California” which tells the story of Queen Califia, a fictional Amazon warrior queen who ruled over the island of California.
Photos by Suze Diaz
The Opening Reception, held in the open outdoor patio, displayed a delightful buffet-style of refreshments prepared by the Center’s Executive Chef, Eric Ybarra. The buffet included Asian-influenced lite bites, a delicious Mac and cheese creation station; a large colorful tray of pineapple, melons and berries and an array of mouth-watering assorted petit fours. A no-host bar was available (with beer and wine only) as well as a water, tea and coffee table with the enchanting Édith Piaf singing in the background.
Students from the local middle- and high schools were asked to create a piece of art inspired by themes or motifs from de Saint Phalle’s career. This youth exhibition with their interpretation of mosaic art and mixed media could be seen throughout the main side hallway on the other side of the outdoor patio. In one of the two gallery rooms, “Inspired: A Mosaic Invitational” included mosaic work by local artists inspired by de Saint Phalle: Wick Alexander, Christie Beniston, Doris Bittar, Robin Brailsford, Kim Emerson, Katherine England, Cherrie La Porte, Leslie Perlis, Renee Richetts, Cheryl Tall, and Jean Wells. In a splendid room of color and passionate creativity, I was in awe of what my eyes were able to take in with great pleasure. Too difficult to decide which was a favorite, I was enchanted upon looking at “Urban Fruit Tree”, “Play of Colors” and “Hives of Hope”, three stained glass and clay pieces by Cherrie La Porte; “The White Queen”, a mosaic tile and ceramic piece by Cheryl Tall; “Growth” and “Understanding”, two glass and ceramic pieces by Christie Beniston and “Dance to the Beat of a Different Drum”, a glass mosaic piece by Leslie Perlis to name a few.
In the main gallery, Niki de Saint Phalle’s drawings of her visionary ideas and paintings are arranged in sync with miniature versions of what you’ll find at Queen Califia’s Magical Circle. Timeline stories and videos of the construction of the sculpture garden are nestled in with other creations of de Saint Phalle’s work. A superb small-scale of the sculpture garden itself is fantastic to see.
Give yourself a magical treat for your eyes and go see the exhibit at the Center! Once you have seen the back-story of the gift from this magnificent artist, you’ll want to see the pieces come to life and visit the sculpture garden. The exhibit runs from January 13 through March 4, 2018.
For more information on Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, please visit www.queencalifia.org
For more information on events and performances at California Center for the Arts, please visit their website at http://artcenter.org/
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