By Miriam Raftery
September 11, 2013 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – “The people of this town came together,” said famed sculptor Ricardo Breceda after hoisting a 1200-pound metallic rattlesnake sculpture into place in front of the Jacumba Community Park.
Best known for his larger-than-life sculptures of present and prehistoric wildlife in the Anza-Borrego desert, Breceda yesterday sold additional sculptures to Jacumba Hot Springs art fans – works that will soon grace rocks and roadways in this high desert community seeking to reinvent itself as an arts colony.
It all started with a winged dragon.
A newspaper publisher from a nearby town recently acquired Jacumba’s intriguing “Chinese castle” on a hill overlooking the town and purchased a Breceda dragon sculpture to stand guard outside this one-of-a-kind residence.
Then an anonymous benefactor commissioned Breceda to create the giant rattlesnake sculpture for the town, after seeing a smaller replica at the artist's studio in Temecula.
“Wow!” Howard Cook with Jacumba’s revitalization committee said of his reaction upon learning of the gift.
Breceda said it took four weeks to craft the unusual piece, starting with the framing.
“Then I started cutting scales – a lot of them,” he said. “Every one is the same size – three and a half inches square. That’s a lot of overlaps, so it takes a lot of time.”
Breceda’s sculptures, crafted from 26-guage sheet metal, sell for thousands of dollars each for his large works. In Temecula, one of his most inspiring creations is a trio of horses that appear to leap across a chasm between real cliffs. You can read more about his unusual creations and career in our 2011 review of Ricardo Breceda: Accidental Artist at http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/7960.
Yesterday, some 200 people turned out to celebrate the snake sculpture’s installation, including school children and visitors from around the world.
In the evening, art aficionados held a reception in Breceda’s honor at the newly reopened Jacumba Hot Springs resort, sipping wine and noshing on bacon-wrapped shrimp and stuffed mushroom appetizers.
In this desert town of rugged individualists, none seemed bothered by the thought of a venomous reptile gracing the heart of town. Instead, citizens took pride in the powerfully coiled snake, rattles and fangs symbolically poised to strike a blow for artistic expression.
Several townspeople purchased Breceda sculptures of their own, from small “tortugas” (tortoises) to dramatic large pieces that will soon be erected for enjoyment by all who pass through this arts-loving community, which is gearing up for next year’s centennial celebration.
Bill Pape, a retiree who makes his living these days off rental properties, purchased a pair of battling bighorn rams.
The rams will soon occupy a rocky perch in front of his own unique residence, drilled into boulders to secure them firmly in place.
"The Beacon” is a rock house built in the 1930s and expanded in 1965. The home itself rises out of native boulders like a lighthouse on some craggy coastal overlook, its walls studded with vintage auto tire rims that double as port holes offering panoramic vistas of distant mountains.
Mark Ostrander, a retired Cal Fire battalion chief, and his wife, Lorrie, purchased a stag sculpture that will soon adorn their front yard along the highway leading into the west side of town.
Their inspiration was a real male deer that leaped out in front of their car one dark night.
“He died in my arms,” said Lorrie Ostrander, who wants to keep the majestic animal’s spirit alive through art.
Howard and Danielle Cook acquired a Breceda cactus sculpture for their Southwestern hacienda-style Jacumba home. Another Jacumba Hot Springs resident bought a sculptural motorcycle.
Not every sculpture sold. Depictions of wild stallions, Mexican siestas, and wolves with individual pieces of curled metal "fur" are still available for art lovers out there.
Breceda said he was deeply moved by the community's love of his artwork. The famed artist offered this perspective: “One of my very good surprises was to see the entire town come out."