John Hilton and the Smoketree Gang

Editor’s note–In anticipation of Kathi Hilton’s visit to Palm Desert March 17-20, 2017, we’re featuring Dan Rohlfing’s article about Kathi’s dad, John Hilton, and his own Wild Bunch of friends. John Hilton, who died in 1983, ran with a circle that included Agnes Pelton, Clyde Forsythe, Maynard Dixon, Bill Bender, Nicolai Fechin, Desert Magazine editor Randall Henderson, Zane Grey and others. The article–reprinted from Dan and Linda Rohlfing’s Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery newsletter–shows how the Smoketree School‘s strength was based not on individual celebrity but on a web of relationships. The friends spanned the fields of government, journalism, Hollywood, literature,…

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Still Life: Eric Merrell Looks at the Orange and Agave

In the hierarchy of genres taught in art history class, desert landscapes would be low on the list. But they positively rule compared to the lowly still life. Fortunately, the lowest-rated form has a new champion in Eric Merrell. The Pasadena artist has a style and intensity that attracts followers for whatever he’s doing, whether…

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Barbara Gothard: Surrealism and the Desert of Dreams

When I heard there was a surrealist living off of South Palm Canyon Drive, near my favorite Indian Canyons haunts, I felt like a botanist who’d discovered a rare desert lily. In Palm Springs we have installation artists, landscape painters, post-modernists and tiki artists–but surrealists? Those are from Paris and New York. Well, not all…

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Vaughan Davies: New Light on Tahquitz

I would have told you I know Tahquitz Canyon well. I’ve studied the jagged mouth from my backyard for 21 years. I’ve watched the shadow of the witch glide across the canyon in the mornings and have even trekked to the third waterfall to visit a former hermit-in-residence. So I thought I knew this place–as…

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Funeral in the Rocks: A Tale of Cathedral City’s Early Artists

In honor of Cathedral City’s 35th anniversary celebration (November, 2016) we’re featuring vintage photos of the town, on display through December 18th at the City Hall Art Gallery. Accompanying the images is an excerpt from Painted Rocks by Josephine Morse True. This hard-to-find memoir depicts the village and the artists, as they were in 1935…

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