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Noguchi's California

March 20, 1994

One scene has a pile of beige granite boulders artfully stacked. Behind the boulders is a row of slim, healthy redwoods on a gentle slope. And off to the side, a raised mound of cactus and other succulents evokes a desert environment, surrounded by a snaking stream.

The artful creations in this Costa Mesa courtyard are by one of America's great sculptors, the late Isamu Noguchi.

For 11 years, the sculpture garden, called "California Scenario," has attracted curious tourists, art students and people looking for a quiet place. Six scenes representing California's natural beauty are spread over the 1.6-acre sandstone courtyard.

Commissioned in 1980 by Henry T. Segerstrom, developer of South Coast Plaza Town Center, the garden cost more than $1 million to construct. In a 1989 interview, Segerstrom noted that the garden gave Noguchi an opportunity to pay homage to his home state.

"He was considered a New Yorker and a Japanese artist, but in truth, he was a native Californian and this was the first revelation of his own appreciation of and sensitivity to that element in his life," Segerstrom said of the artist, who died in 1988.

The pile of boulders is a 28-ton sculpture cut and fitted by Noguchi himself. Titled "The Spirit of the Lima Bean," it is a tribute to the Segerstrom family and the roots of their fortune: lima bean farming.

The sculpture garden also offers a simpler version of new-age "aroma therapy" and "wave music." The light, sweet scent of honeysuckle greets visitors who stroll by the sixth element of the sculpture, a raised mound representing the agricultural use of California's land.

California Scenario is at 116 Anton Blvd. Admission is free.

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