“Blessings are meant to be shared” – Dennis S. Avery
Borrego Springs is a small town of about 3500 with many seasonal residents, which is actually an unincorporated area of northeast San Diego County about 100 miles from the city of San Diego. It’s in a really dramatic setting surrounded by mountains and badlands.
The town was California’s first dark sky community, and has no stoplights. So it’s quite beautiful when the stars come out at night. And the town’s surroundings are part of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which, at 643,000 acres, makes up more than half of the land of the entire California State Park System.
But Borrego Springs might be best known for the life size sculptures found scattered all over the desert around the town on parcels of private land (Galleta Meadows Estate) owned by the recently deceased Dennis Avery, millionaire heir to the Avery labeling fortune, philanthropist and visionary.
The sculptures are crafted of metal by sculptor Ricardo Breceda of Temecula, California, who welds scrap reinforcement bars, wire and metal together, and uses hammers to pound texture into the patches of metal.
Mr. Breceda, sometimes referred to as “the accidental artist” was a carpenter until he fell from a second story during a construction job. While selling cowboy boots for a living, he traded a pair for a welding machine, and then began to “play” with it as a hobby. He created his first sculpture, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, when his daughter asked for one after watching “Jurassic Park III”. He continued making sculptures as a hobby for a few years prior to selling any of his works.
In 2007, Dennis Avery happened to drive by Ricardo Breceda’s studio and spotted a 30 foot T-Rex leaning over a fence. Mr. Avery owned about 3,000 acres of noncontiguous parcels in Borrego Springs that he wanted preserved from development, and had opened his land to the public. A paleontology buff, he had financed a book cataloguing the fossil treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert.
The philanthropist and artist shared an obsession with the prehistoric, and, in 2008, Mr. Avery commissioned Mr. Breceda to create some of the prehistoric beasts from the book, animals that had roamed this area millions of years ago when it was a lush jungle. They brainstormed the project and Mr. Avery named it “Sky Art”.
I love a great partnership, whether business or personal or both.
Over the years, the sculpture collection grew to include prehistoric creatures not from this area, then historical incidents and characters, desert wildlife and mythical creatures. There are now more than 130 sculptures.
Although Mr. Avery passed away last year, Galleta Meadows LLC remains, and a fund was set up so that when any of the sculptures are damaged, Mr. Breceda can repair them.
Hector and I love outdoor sculptures and set out to see all of them.
They are dispersed throughout the desert near town, to the north and the south and most are located within sight of the Borrego Springs Road.
For those wanting a closer up view, there are a number of dirt roads from the main road leading to the sculptures and though some of these dirt roads are made up of softish sand, most are flat and hard.
And, of course, I wanted to get REALLY close and walked over to many of them. There is a lot of detail that can only be appreciated once you are close up.
There are enormous birds, prehistoric horses, camels and elephants. There is a wonderful, giant Spanish Padre, an Indian Head, and a jeep going over rocks.
Not to mention a sculpture of farm workers working a grape field.
One of the most impressive sculptures is a 350-foot sea serpent with various parts emerging from the sand and seemingly crossing the road.
Sky Art is the most unique art project I’ve ever seen. How wonderful of Mr. Avery to have commissioned these unique sculptures and opened up his land so that the public might enjoy them.