Book Review: Ricardo Breceda: Accidental Artist By Diana Lindsay
08/01/2012 05:30PM ● Published by Denise Brown
Book Review By Delphine Lucas
Diana Lindsay gives us a biography of a wonderfully talented artist, Ricardo Breceda. Perhaps while you were driving on the 215 past Perris, California, you saw his Perris Jurassic Park, huge metal sculptures of prehistoric animals looking out over the freeway.
This is not just your everyday biography. The book itself is a work of art. Its design, layout, colors, writing, and photographs taken by the author are lovely. Diana Lindsay, according to her bio on the Sunbelt Publications site, went into the desert in 1966 and never came out. Her books are about the areas in and around Anza-Borrego, my favorite part of the California desert. Ricardo Breceda, with much trepidation, allowed Diana Lindsay to learn about his life so she could write his story in a three month period. She visited Durango, Mexico, his birthplace, to interview his family, and she also visited the remote village of Los Berros where he once was a school teacher.
After coming to the U.S, Breceda followed a common immigrant path; restaurant work, construction jobs, and self- employment, selling imported boots before he became the Accidental Artist. One day he traded some boots for some welding equipment, thinking he would never use it, and one day he did. He made his daughter a dinosaur. Soon he began a whole new life.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I happened upon several enormous metal sculptures outside the town of Borrego Springs. There were signs posted near the sculptures welcom- ing visitors and even allowing camping on the property for up to three days. We drove from one creature to the next, never making a connection to the workshop we passed on the 215. The previous fall we were given a copy of this book by the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce, and during a torrential rain storm I read it in a hotel room. It turned out the book, besides being a biography of a genius artist, is also a guide to all the unbelievable magical sculptures he made, commissioned by Dennis Avery in Borrego Springs. They are now referred to as Sky Art because they are part of the desert landscape and lie under the desert sky.
Dennis Avery funded the drawings for another Sunbelt Publication, Fossil Treasures, a book about Plio-Pleistocene fossils previously unearthed in the Anza Borrego area, and he had also driven past Breceda’s workshop on the 215. In 2008 Avery asked Breceda if he was able to make a sculpture from one of the fossil drawings. The rest is now history. These men work well together. Each time Breceda makes a sculpture, he wants it to be better than the last. He continues to make them for the area, and there are a lot of them to see when you visit Borrego Springs. A friend of mine who leafed through the book said they reminded her of the sixteenth century sculptures in the Bomarzo Monster Park in Italy, where there is also a dragon.
The last part of the book explains how Breceda makes the anatomical details of these extinct animals so perfectly, what he does to the metal, and how he constructs the teeth, claws, and feathers. The photographs and writing in the book deepened my appreciation for the sculptures that I had already fallen completely in love with. I also found many more in the book that we missed on our tour, some of the best ones of all, including the dragon. You have to see the dragon.
Accidental Artist, itself, as a work of art stands on its own, but read in conjunction with a visit Breceda’s sculptures in Borrego Springs, it is a miracle. At least it was for me.
Note: It is with sorrow that we must report the death of Ricardo Breceda’s sponsor in Borrego Springs, Dennis Avery. Avery, a philanthropist and active supporter of the Borrego Springs community, died this July. An heir to the Avery-Dennison of- fice supply/label fortune and a successful businessman, was known—and loved—for his support for charities, Borrego Springs, and the arts. Dennis Avery embodied the best of the spirit of the desert, and was a true desert treasure. We are grateful for his worldwide philanthropy, and the gift of Ricardo Breceda’s fantastic Sky Art in Borrego Springs. Our sincere condolences to his family and friends.