Free museum under the sky: Galleta Meadows Estate, California

Petar Djajkovski

Inside the State Park of Anza-Borrego Desert in California, there are several separate privately owned plots by the name of Galleta Meadows Estate. These plots were bought by a certain Dennis Avery and he purchased the lands for conservation. His idea was to make something extraordinary out of the empty desert space. And not just something that you could see everyday or anywhere. Rather an unique open free art gallery under the Californian sky, full with metal sculptures.

Galleta Meadows Estates Sign – Author: Sam Howzit – CC BY 2.0

Galleta Meadows Estates Sign – Author: Sam Howzit – CC BY 2.0

Dennis Avery hired South Californian artist Ricardo Breceda to enrich his desert “meadows” with art sculptures. Breceda was so productive that during this period that he created more than 130 scrap heap metal art sculptures.

Most of the sculptures represent animals from all around the world. There are massive bugs and insects, but also people, jeeps, and many other things. All remarkably well sculpted and put together.

The battle between the Cricket and the Scorpion – Author: Rob Bertholf – CC BY 2.0

The battle between the Cricket and the Scorpion – Author: Rob Bertholf – CC BY 2.0

Apart from the many realistic metal sculptures of animals and humans, there are some of the beings who belong to other times of this world, and those who belong to other worlds as well. There are the several sculptures of extinct animal fossils found in the Californian desert, dinosaurs and other archaic species that roamed the sands many years before our time. Alongside these are some wonderful creatures from the realms of fantasy, for example, the 350-foot long sand dragon, designed to look like the dragons from Chinese mythology.

The sand dragon – Author: Rob Bertholf – CC BY 2.0

The sand dragon – Author: Rob Bertholf – CC BY 2.0

Among our favorites are “The battle between the Cricket and the Scorpion,” the tension can be felt in the air as the two of them stare each other before the fight begins. The detailing on The Camels is out of this world, so much attention put into the fine details to create every single muscle from a different sheet of metal. It feels almost like a professional level completed jigsaw. Some of the sculptures that represent animals with fur are completely on the next level from everything else. Every single hair of the fur is made of small piece of metal and wielded separately on the body.

Mother and baby camel – Author: Matthew Dillon – CC BY 2.0

Mother and baby camel – Author: Matthew Dillon – CC BY 2.0

The sculptures that represent humans are: “The Jeep Drivers,” “Father Francisco Garces” – a missionary who spread the word of Christ and explored much of the southwestern part of North America. There is also one of Juan Bautista de Anza, the first governor of New Mexico, appointed by the Spanish Crown. The final two are a bust of the famous Salvador Palma, the leader of the proud Native American Quechan tribe, and a group of farmers/winemakers collecting grapes from the vineyard. All of them are built in life size but slightly off realistic, with a certain caricature gestures–not in a funny way, more like a stylistic intervention that gives them uniqueness and exalt them even more.

Salvador Palma, leader of the Quechan tribe – Author: Matthew Dillon – CC BY 2.0

Salvador Palma, leader of the Quechan tribe – Author: Matthew Dillon – CC BY 2.0

 

The Jeep Riders – Author: Rob Bertholf – CC BY 2.0

The Jeep Riders – Author: Rob Bertholf – CC BY 2.0

Galleta Meadows Estate is completely open to the public and free to visit. The estate is so big that it’s visitors often come for other activities apart from obvious one. It’s grounds are good for picnicking, sand bicycling, horseback riding, 4×4 vehicle dune riding pretty much every day of the year since the weather almost always allows it. Inside the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is the largest state park in California, there is a little town community by the name of Borrego Springs.

Gomphotherium – Author: Sam Howzit – CC BY 2.0

Gomphotherium – Author: Sam Howzit – CC BY 2.0

Wild horses – Author: Sam Howzit – CC BY 2.0

Wild horses – Author: Sam Howzit – CC BY 2.0

The legacy of Dennis Avery lives on and this deserted desert park will continue to remind anyone of him who drives by. However, it is also a good lecture on altruism. An unselfish act of giving back to the world. Even abandoned, it is still a park for everyone to enjoy.