Located in the Iris Sankey Arboretum
Kit Carson Park
3333 Bear Valley Parkway
Escondido, CA 92025
Queen Califia's Magical Circle is the only American sculpture garden and the last major international project created by Niki de Saint Phalle (born France, 1930-2002). Inspired by California's mythic, historic and cultural roots, the garden consists of nine large-scale sculptures, a circular "snake wall" and maze entryway, sculpturally integrated bench seating, and native shrubs and trees planted within the interior plaza and along the outer perimeter. The garden bears the brilliant, unique mosaic ornamentation that is an unmistakable part of Saint Phalle's later work.
Queen Califia's Magical Circle is situated within a 12-acre natural habitat in the Iris Sankey Arboretum in Kit Carson Park on a parcel of land donated by the City of Escondido. The park's entrance is located five minutes from I-15 (Via Rancho Parkway Exit) at the corner of Bear Valley Parkway and Mary Lane.
The sculpture garden's key architectural features are an undulating circular wall measuring 400 feet in length (with varying heights from 4 to 9 feet) that surrounds the garden. Monumental playful serpents, decorated in colorfully patterned mosaics, slither along the top of the wall, their curved bodies forming a pattern of solids and voids that allows visitors to see landscape vistas beyond the garden. The "snake wall" opens into a maze whose walls and floors are covered with black, white, and mirrored tiles. Once through the maze, visitors enter into the central courtyard.
There are nine freestanding sculptures in the garden. The imposing mosaic sculpture of Queen Califia standing on the back of a five-legged eagle commands the center of the garden. Eight large totemic sculptures surround Queen Califia. They are covered with symbols and forms freely drawn from Native American, Pre-Columbian, and Mexican art as well as the artist's own fantastic imagery.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Guthrie