John Frost: A Quiet Mastery

Whitewater Wash, San Jacinto, 1926

Editor’s note: In the early days of desert painting, Palm Springs was a tiny outpost in the wilderness and artists roamed the dunes like nomadic prophets. Among the top-tier artists here around 1920 were the three friends Guy Rose, Alson Clark and John Frost. In a sweeping new biography from the Irvine Museum, Phil Kovinick shares 12 years of research on one member of the trio. In this excerpt (West Again, 1919-1922), Frost is seeking relief from tuberculosis at Nellie Coffman’s Desert Inn and hanging out with a film crew shooting a Zane Grey movie. “Jack” is John Frost. Nimmie…

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Henry Mockel: The Philosopher of Flowers

Mockel self portrait

This article first appeared in the Early Spring, 2014, edition of  The Sand Paper, the newsletter of the Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association ( Faced with a field of spring flowers, some of us want to run the other way. The names confuse us, the profusion intimidates us. Fortunately for the phobic, Henry Mockel…

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Through the Red Rock Doorway: A Q&A With Erin Hanson

Erin Hanson, Joshua Tree

Mystical transformations famously take place in a single moment. One minute you’re ordinary and the next “the great door, that does not look like a door, opens,” in the words of Stephen Graham. That’s pretty much what happened to Erin Hanson when she was climbing in the red rocks near Las Vegas. Yes she had…

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Carl Zimmerman: A Granddaughter’s Quest for an Early Desert Painter

Tahquitz Canyon, Lou Armentrout collection

Ed. Note: Rita Collier shares her intrepid hunt for facts about her grandfather, a desert painter of the 1920s and 30s. While not all quests are this fruitful, Collier’s tale shows what can happen when you start looking. In the best cases, you can actually write an artist back into history. Even though my grandfather,…

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Steve Hudson’s Idyllwild Fandango

Suicide Rock

I was walking through the library at Idyllwild Arts Academy one day when my attention was grabbed by hunks of color in the shape of a familiar local landmark: Suicide Rock. The colors were almost cartoonish, but the painting drew me in perfectly. On the wall near the painting I found a note with contact…

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