Public Art and Personal Transformation by Jessica Bowman


Public Art Sculptures

Borrego Springs, CA

Artist: Ricardo Breceda

Photo: Jessica Bowman


Public Art displays like the image above, a dragon that appears to be moving through the sand dunes of Borrego Springs, California offer tremendous insight into the time and era of the society when it was created, the surrounding community, the patron of the work and of course, the artist. In the case of this artwork and several other similar sculptures found in the barren but beautiful landscape within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park the subject matter supports the wildness of the region and invites the viewer to consider the area before the impacts of modern civilization.  In this case, it isn’t difficult to imagine such an untamed time as there are miles and miles of sandstone, treeless mountains and desert brush with very few people anywhere to be found. Also in this case, the artwork is absolutely appropriate for the environment in which it is placed.

“If private art suggests an intimate exchange, public art gathers a congregation.  While I have observed that all art is to some degree public, pubic art merits its name in virtue of the fact that the creation of a public is its point of departure.  Public art presupposes the public sphere and produces a public in relation to that concept.  Unlike popular or mass art, it does not assume a preexistent generic audience to be entertained or instructed but sets out to forge a specific public by means of an aesthetic interaction.” (Hein, pg. 49)

I traveled to Borrego Springs in the summer of 2015, with temperatures reaching 117 Fahrenheit to retrieve the last of my father’s belongings.  He passed away several years before and I inherited the house much to my dismay; simply because the expenses to maintain the property were formidable.  I haven’t been there in years mostly because it is a 14 hour drive at best and because it is a challenging dynamic.  The house is beautiful with a large yard, big pool and amazing views.  Employment opportunities are practically nonexistent so living there wasn’t an option.

The desert climate is also challenging but has a certain appeal and of course, the house reminded me of my father; not the best memories.  Just the same, I set the intention of looking at the experience, the landscape and the details through a different lens and several things captured my attention including the following image:

Photo: Jessica Bowman

Public art displays such as this have the potential to impact how our society views and interacts with art.  They may even perhaps inspire some to visit a formal museum simply because the art is accessible, visible to everybody who drives along the road and greatly unassuming. And if one is motivated to seek additional forms of public art then also perhaps culture shifts just slightly to be more inclusive of art in general. As an example, on average Anza Borrego Desert State Park sees about 10,000 visitors per month for a variety of reasons including the flora and fauna that can only be found in this region.  There are also archaeological exchanges, night sky viewing and thousands of miles of hiking and off highway vehicle trails. Interestingly as well, Borrego Springs boasts an annual art festival and several art organizations; many more than most towns of this population can support.  As a result of the public art displays, art galleries and organizations and art events this area draws people from around the world to engage.  So much so that recent attention has been brought to preserving the historic rock art paintings found in the park. The juxtaposition between the giant sculptures dancing with the landscape, the posh galleries, the art festivals and the rock paintings that have been in place for centuries is a dynamic that is truly fascinating.  Regardless of which component was initiated first there is no doubt that the art movement in the region has been transformative.

Rumarosa Style Pictographs in Carrizo Gorge

Photo Courtesy of Anza Borrego Desert State Park

This trip to Borrego Springs allowed a tremendous amount of reflection and not just because of the 28 hours of driving.  The opportunity to reflect was absolutely necessary and important in part because I left a position in K-12 educational leadership for a private sector job that didn’t last.  Being unemployed is uncomfortable and not knowing the next steps is concerning.  Just the same, I am interested in symbolism and being a bit of a mystic I am interested in the meanings of the symbols that cross my path.  I noticed palm trees (balance of masculine/feminine), the repeating number sequence of 555 (constant change) and a boat named Queen Boudica who is a Celtic heroine that I’ve been acquainted with for years. The massive sculptures in the desert have always captured my attention and the dragon, who is relatively new and acts as the gateway guardian to the neighborhood where the house is located, is said to be a representation of the slaying of the Divine Feminine during the rise of Patriarchy in the Middle Ages as well as an invitation to consider the magical, mystical and mysterious worlds that we may not have physical access to at this point in time.  The image of the Native American Sacred Feminine, which is on the wall of a gas station in Indio, contains two snakes which are considered to be symbols of transformation and associated with the Goddess Lilith.


This reflection would serve no purpose until I, my own navigator, have created new mental and emotional pathways in my internal topography with a constant righting of my internal compass rose. The revelatory process can sometimes be a slow train coming or closer to the big bang. Regardless, the revelations that come forth from reflection are powerful.  When viewing art, whether it be classified as fine art, folk art, public art or art made by children in the classroom, my imagination is activated and I hope that I am transported to another place because the work is so compelling, thought provoking or filled with emotion. My revelations include:

  1. Art is transformative; both individually and collectively
  2. Art invites reflection and fuels revelation
  3. Art is another way of knowing that I can’t articulate with words
  4. Art is healing and this is evidenced in every culture, time, and country in the world
  5. The artistic lens is one in my proverbial treasure chest and the more I use it the more informed I become
  6. Art is inspiring, invites exploration, and allows for discovery
  7. Art cultivates intuition and a relationship with the Divine
  8. Art is an ongoing process that I hope will continue to invoke, provoke, and delight my journey


Art and Transformation Collage

Jessica Bowman



Hein, H. (2006). Public art: Thinking museums differently. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.

Jacobs, L., & Schenk, F. (n.d.). Unpacking the cognitive map: The parallel map theory of hippocampal function. Psychological Review, 285-315.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park. (n.d.). Retrieved August 6, 2015




“The existence of art is the concrete proof of what has just been stated abstractly.  It is proof that man uses the materials and energies of nature with intent to expand his own life, and that he does so in accord with the structure of his organism – brain, sense, organs, and muscular system.  Art is the living and concrete proof that man is capable of restoring consciously, and thus on the plane of meaning, the union of sense, need, impulse and action characteristic of the live creature. The intervention of consciousness adds regulation, power of selection, and redisposition.  Thus it varies the arts in ways without end. But its intervention of consciousness also leads in time to the idea of art as a conscious idea- the greatest intellectual achievement in the history of humanity.”

John Dewey


Jessica Bowman holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology, a Master’s Degree in Women’s Spirituality and Creative Expression as well as California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Science and English and Administrative Service Credentials.  She is an Associate Superintendent for a rural high school district focusing on support for underrepresented students. Jessica is also an artist, healer, and seeker.  She is a doctoral student at the California Institute of Integral Studies researching Social Justice and the application of Goddess Consciousness as a Women’s Leadership Model. For more information on some of her work please see and


Categories: Ancestors, animals, Art, Foremothers, Mother Earth, Nature

Tags: , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. I appreciated your reflections on public art. I am curious, if you’d care to share, how the art you witnessed affected the task of clearing your father’s house and deciding what to do with it. Thanks for a way into a world that sometimes feels strange and inaccessible.


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