Sunday, March 14, 2021

Lucky Number: 13 Sculptures Find Perfect Settings at San Diego Botanic Garden

Full view of Warren Bakley’s Cherub in its SDBG location (Kay Colvin)

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt.
Photos by Maurice Hewitt, except as noted.

For over a decade, just about every spring, there’s been a sculpture exhibition installed amid the greenery at San Diego Botanic Garden.  Even a pandemic can’t undo this tradition, which this year is a collaboration between SDGB and OMA, the Oceanside Museum of Art. 

Curator Kay Colvin, former director of L Street Gallery in downtown San Diego, selected 13 works from submissions by members of OMA’s Artist Alliance. Inspired by nature, each piece was placed in a setting that would highlight its charms and add some artful sparkle to its environment.

The 37-acre Garden is an attraction in itself, a great springtime destination where you can admire the foliage as you hunt for the artworks with a map of the numbered sculptures in hand. My personal favorite is #10: Warren Bakley’s Cherub, for which Colvin found the perfect setting: it’s surrounded by boulders and situated next to a Paperbark Tree—Melaleuca linarifolia, an Eastern Australian member of the eucalyptus family—whose bark she described as looking like peeling phyllo dough. “The tree and the boulders are all about the same color as the sculpture, creating a whole composition that just works so beautifully,” she said.

Bakley, a painter, clay artist and designer who lives in Pacific Beach and has taught at SDSU and Southwestern College, has been making angel and cherub figures for some years, and recently found himself wondering: what happens to baby cherubs when they grow up? “I decided to make an old cherub for the Garden,” he said. “And I gave him a paper airplane to play with. I wanted a garden background for this piece, which would look good in a small formal garden too. I let every piece I make speak for itself, but their size is always dictated by the question: Can I lift it or not?” 

This sculpture exhibition is really a voyage of discovery. As SDBG’s President/CEO Ari Novy pointed out: “Not all of the artworks are super-conspicuous,” so part of the pleasure is discovering each piece for yourself and taking time to interact with it from various perspectives.

All COVID safety precautions are observed at SDBG, and the 13 sculptures will be on view through July. Almost all are available for sale, so if you’d like to have one in your garden, contact OMA Exhibitions Manager Katie Dolgov at

 Featured Artists and Artworks
Judy SalinskyMariposa and Flower (#1)
Kim OgburnJungle Jan (#2)
Larry VogelRapa Nui (#3)
Scott BrucknerAbstract (#4)
Dan Peragine: Heron’s Watcher (#5)
Danielle ZhangBalance—Wild and Beautiful (#6)
Dustin Gimbel: Turquoise Sage Trio (#7) and Black Monstrosus (#8)
Warren Bakley: Bronze Form (#9) and Cherub (#10)
William LeslieDNA—The Magic Molecule (#11)
Ernie Pick:  Nature’s Spiral (#12)
Marianne McGrathFenced (#13)

San Diego Botanic Garden
300 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas, CA 92024
Open Wed-Sun, 10 am-5pm
Tickets: $10-18. Tickets must be reserved in advance at or (760) 436-3036. Be sure to request a sculpture map at the admissions booth.
View photos of all the sculptures at 


Side view of Warren Bakley’s Cherub with his paper airplane (Maurice Hewitt)

SDBG President/CEO Ari Novy posed beside Marianne McGrath’s Fenced, with its cascades of porcelain leaves

William Leslie’s DNA—The Magic Molecule is, like DNA, a spiral, but a colorful one that twirls in the wind

Dustin Gimbel’s glazed ceramic Black Monstrosus, flanked by living Cacti

Danielle Zhang’s Balance—Wild and Beautiful, made of palm fronds, recycled wood and plastic rod. “It puts the Garden into the piece, not just the piece into the Garden," Ari Novy said.

Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has written about arts and lifestyle for the La Jolla Light and other local media for over a dozen years. You can reach her at

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