"...a strange scene with several field workers tending to grape vines – truly odd."
Fellow photographic pal Joaquin and I often trek to the lesser travelled environs of the Southern Californian desert. "Desolate" is a prime criteria when deciding the destinations. Anza Borrego, a state park spanning 3 California counties fits the title nicely....at least for what we mostly saw. I coaxed Joaquin out this way because I had heard of large metal sculptures ascending from the desert floor in random unexpected places near Anza Borrego in Borrego Springs. This is August in the desert in California – 105 F temperatures are normal, however, we where blessed with over cast cloudy weather. I love clouds, I love em in my photography, especially when shooting landscapes or weird enormous metal animals out amongst the tumble weed.
Joaquin was skeptical, but we soon came upon several sculptures of elephant with large tusks, just off the highway near Borrego Springs. There were 3 of them. A family. Seemingly strayed from the herd, frozen, their gaze welded facing west. There is nothing marking these beasts. No signage to tell you what this exhibition is all about. Nothing about the artist. No signs telling you to 'no touching', no ropes, no curbs, no fences. Truly a sculpture that seems to have been dropped off in the middle of no where's ville, like it was abandoned. I like that.
But yet these elephants are in good company. Not too far from here is a pack of wild horses dancing in the desert, a giant eagle protecting its nest and t-rex with his dino friends making a prehistoric reptilian fight club of sorts. Once you find one or two of these hand crafted sculptures, you'll discover more only a welding rod's throw away. In order to get to some of these sculptures, off road trails or short hike are the only ways. Its worth the effort. Joaquin was beginning to be impressed.
On the other side of Borrego Springs, just down the road a bit is a second grouping of more eclectic works of art. A herd of camel, more elephants, and a strange scene with several field workers tending to grape vines – truly odd. I saved the best for last though: a two story tall scorpion about to sting a cadillac sized grasshopper sitting in the middle of a sandy brushless several acre area. Yet again, there are no signs of any kind, no fodder to foul up your view and spoil your contemplation of these wonderfully detailed pieces of art.
It was at this point that Joaquin admitted to me that the grasshopper sculpture was his favorite. I liked it a lot too. Our final destination, seemed to be the most recent addition to this huge outdoor gallery: A Sea Serpent. This is the largest of the works, spanning the paved road allowing travelers to feel like they are surrounded by the scaly beast.
The serpent mimics those ocean dwelling dragons that where have said to have taken down many ships in the dark waters of the early days of sea voyages. It is undoubtedly an impressive and ambitious work. Joaquin and I struggled to find a shot that would capture the awe of the serpent. We snapped a few, feeling satisfied, then we left – still not knowing who or where this desolate collection sprang from. A mystery which only adds to the reverent and enigmatic feeling that comes to you when standing in 105 F degree desert near these creatures. We must move on, more of the California desert awaits.
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