Friday, February 28, 2014

Desert call yields unusual sculptures -- prehistoric to contemporary

VISIONARY PHILANTHROPIST AND HIS ARTIST PARTNER CREATE DESERT ART

Bighorn sheep, who roam on the desert, are perched playfully for a stand-off during mating season.

A tyrannosaurus rex awaits your discovery in Borrego Springs.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THE DESERT beckoned and we answered the call, delighting in the surprise of sculptural art on the way.
We've been to the desert many times, enjoying the spring flowers and bird life,  favorite places to stay and some wonderful restaurants.
This time, we discovered prehistoric life --  dinosaurs, mammoths, and sabre-toothed cats and tortoises that would have charmed Darwin.
An ancestor of our modern birds picks up his prey and flies.
Beautifully crafted metal sculptures -- including elephants, eagles and even a desert jeep with passengers --   are positioned to suggest roaming the deserts of San Diego County, near our home here in southern California.
Outside of the town of Borrego Springs lies Galleta Meadows, inspiration of the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Dennis Avery.
An imposing Indian chief joins the ranks of prehistoric and modern life.
HE CALLED these massive steel sculptures "Sky Art," probably because he placed them on the desert scrub to jump out at the tourist and draw the eye skyward.
Framed by the blue desert sky and mountains of the Anza Borrego desert, the giant sculptures catch the eye and tickle the imagination.



This tortoise is worthy
of a Darwin nod.











Avery, a visionary land owner of Galleta
Meadows Estates in Borrego, conceived of the idea of adding “free standing art” to his property. He commissioned Ricardo Breceda of Temecula, California, to create the metal sculptures you see today. Breceda operates Perris Jurassic Park along I-215 just south of Perris.

Keller takes an imaginary ride in a desert jeep.
The late Mr. Avery. 
MOST OF the animals depicted are from various prehistoric periods. However, there are a few that represents modern time, such as Desert Bighorn Sheep that Borrego Springs is named after (“Borrego” in Spanish means sheep). There are also a few that are more fictional, such as the 350-foot serpent that was erected in July of 2011.  Cleverly, it appears to slink under the highway, so its slithering length is on both sides of the road!
HOW WONDERFUL to come across these sculptures, installed remarkably since April of 2008.  The surreal menagerie -- a gift of Avery -- sit on private parcels of Galleta Meadows Estate -- open to the public and accessible from Borrego Springs Road.
A pack mule and a miner's supplies seem to be taking a rest.
THE ARTIST Breceda, is a master welder who uses scrap bars, wire and metal then pounds the materials with various hammers for life-like texture and skin.  We counted more than 60 camels, sloths, saber-tooth cats, wooly mammoths, raptors, wild boars, bighorns and tortoises, along with giant birds large enough to carry off a small pig.
All are peacefully co-existing over a span of several square miles.  The wild horses and bighorns may be modern desert dwellers, but some of the vertebrates date from the Pliocene-Pleistocene era up to five million years ago.
A padre and his faithful dog preach the gospel in Borrego.
ALTHOUGH AVERY died in 2012, his widow, Sally Tsui Wong-Avery, continues to sustain his generous  gift.  Her husband and the artist added humans to the collection in 2010, including a missionary, explorer and field workers -- all of whom shaped desert life. The local chamber has published a helpful "Village Guide" with directions on discovering the llamas, mammoths, grasshopper, tapirs, peccaries, and more.
I took pleasure in discovering Galleta Meadows and this intriguing art because galleta means cookie and that, as we know, is my nickname!

THERE'S MUCH more to discover of the desert's spring gifts and plenty to do in Borrego Springs -- from buying delicious dates and grapefruit, to enjoying a fine meal, discovering nature close-up on Palm Canyon Trail and learning to identify a few cacti. We'll look at that next week, but first, we salute the lively current theater scene in San Diego, with a look at a trio of fine productions.  Remember to explore, learn and live, and tell your friends about our Wednesdays and weekend posts at: www.whereiscookie.com


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