San Diego

Your Corner: Artist's Home is His Masterpiece, 59 Years in the Making

James Hubbell's work can be seen around the world, but his home in San Diego County -- which is 59 years old -- is his ultimate work of art

There is a one-of-a-kind home in San Diego County that has been under construction for nearly 60 years. And, for the artist who lives there, it is his lifelong masterpiece.

“It takes people away from what they call the real world. And it gives them a chance to look at things in a different way,” said artist James Hubbell.

Hubbell is a world-renowned artist with his work on display across the globe, from Russia and China to Abu Dhabi, to name a few sites.

He’s 85 years old now, still creating art today and still living on a very special property near Santa Ysabel with his wife, Anne.

The couple bought the land 59 years ago. They were newlyweds at the time.

They would build one part of their home at a time, paying for it as they went, and raising four boys there. The evolution of Hubbell's art can be seen in the changes from structure to structure.

Today, the home consists of nine buildings; the property is a visual adventure to walk through. From stained glass and sculptures to unique architecture, there is not a dull step to be taken.

“His fingerprints are all over this property. His imagination is seemingly endless,” said Marianne Gerdes, who heads the Ilan Lael Foundation.

The foundation is now in charge of overseeing the property.

“It’s just incredible. He designs the structures. He designs the art that embellishes the structures,” said Gerdes. “There are no square corners, very colorful, full of nature, inspired by nature, and just beautiful.”

Hubbell is not just inspired by nature, he plans around it. Most of the trees, and rocks on the property have never moved. The buildings are built around them. Hubbell even dug the footings for the buildings by hand to avoid bringing heavy machinery onto the land.

“I think a certain place has a certain way it wants to be and if you move too much, you destroy that,” said Hubbell.

Ironically, it’s nature that nearly destroyed everything Hubbell spent decades creating.

In 2003, the worst wildfire in California history came right through the Hubbell property. The Cedar Fire destroyed half of the buildings and a lot of the art.

But thanks to the generosity of friends, neighbors, and admirers of Hubbell’s work, the family was able to rebuild.

Today, the property is still a thriving place for artists. Hubbell has apprentices who work under him, putting his ideas to life. Once a year, on Father’s Day, the home is open to the general public to come tour.

While Hubbell's work keeps him active, he is suffering from Parkinson's disease. Thus, it’s impossible to avoid the conversation of what the future holds for him and this masterpiece.

He has an answer.

 “I think one of the things it could be used for is a place where people can learn to talk to each other, even if they don’t like each other,” he said.

The world could use somewhere like that these days.

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