Double Original Friday – Nikigator Sketches

Nikigator2.jpegYou say: I don’t care that they don’t consider it art.
But I do: I see the children running, arms open
Embracing this glittering lizard, seeing themselves
in her mirrored scales.
– Marcy Erb

Last week I started attending a sketchbook class. We meet in various places in San Diego and draw outside: so it is the perfect combination of things I enjoy! Our first meeting was in Balboa Park and after a brief official “class” session, we were set loose in the park to draw pretty much whatever we wanted. I wound up doing multiple studies of the large outdoor mosaic sculpture called Nikigator by Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002). It is one of the few sculptures in the park you are allowed to touch and it is literally a child magnet, with kids running, squealing, towards it, arms out to climb and scramble and play. I know of no official study, but just by the level of interaction I observed and the number family photos taken with Nikigator, I would guess it is one of the most visited pieces of art in the park (here’s a color picture!). Niki de Saint Phalle lived an exceedingly colorful and interesting life (The New Yorker published an interesting article about her life last year, I recommend it if you have a few minutes – found here). She is quoted as saying “Whether or not people think it’s art – whether or not it is art – doesn’t matter to me,” in response to critics who were scandalized she merchandized her art in the 1960s to fund her outdoor sculptures. It is interesting to see how much attitudes have changed about that and about how artists are paid and artwork funded.  I hope everyone has an enjoyable weekend!


  1. Oooh, I’m so glad you got inspired by her and that children love her NIkigator. First time I hear of it! I live 15 minutes from her Tarot Garden here in Tuscany and I visit her every time I can. ❤


    1. I agree! The interaction really makes it special for me. In my sketches, the ones with people in them were far more dynamic and satisfying than the ones without (except for the one with the umbrellas, which was the best of the “without people” lot).


  2. Yepp. There is truth in her words: Merchandizing to fund art objects -. and selling one’s soul are definitely two completely different balls of wax. Good to read your’re able to combine your enjoyable things: It is always nice to find more than one in the same place !


    1. Thank you! The class has been great fun so far – and a source of new inspiration. It is interesting to see how artists are more or less expected to merchandize their art to support themselves these days, whereby it was a scandal in her day!


    1. It is my pleasure! I have found it to be a continuing inspiration – and besides, you have to be pretty determined not to feel sunny about life when you see the kids squeal with joy and play on it!


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