Eleanor and Ron Hurst: A Mother and Son Walk the Smoketree Path

Hurst portrait

The weekend ritual of Ron Hurst’s youth involved driving from La Mesa through the San Diego backcountry to the Borrego desert, where he and his parents would head down a dirt road and make camp. His mother would set up her easel and he and his father would go off to practice tracking and rockhounding. While learning all about obsidian, jasper and quartz, young Ron also unknowingly absorbed the texture and light of the desert. He was learning via the eyes of his mother, the desert painter Martha Eleanor Nicholson Hurst (she went by Eleanor Hurst). That buried knowledge came…

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Hermann Fischer, Karl May and the Desert of Imagination

High Desert

It was Karl May’s pulp fiction that first prompted a boy growing up in Heilbronn, Germany, to long for the desert he’d never seen, and, eventually, to become a desert painter at age 70. For the German writer May (1842-1912)—as for many others–the desert represented freedom, adventure and beauty. May (pronounced “My”) captured this desert…

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DeWayne “Dooby” Williams: Guru of the Black Rock Desert

DeWayne "Dooby" Williams

I arrived at Gerlach, Nevada late in the day on a photo assignment for Nevada Magazine. A story about two railroading sisters who hauled materials from the Empire gypsum plant to Gerlach and Union Pacific’s main line where the loaded railroad cars were picked up. I needed a writer so I could concentrate on taking…

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Eric Merrell: On Seeing Color in the Desert

Caravan of the Moon

Note: Eric Merrell teaches a class–Seeing Beautiful Color in the Landscape–May 14-16, 2014, in Pasadena. Deserts pose a “wonderful problem” when it comes to observing color, he says. Here are ideas on how to tackle the problem, from one of the most poetic painters of the California deserts. I really began to develop some of…

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Bidding On Agnes: A Newbie Goes to An Art Auction

A rare image of Agnes Pelton smiling, in her Cathedral City home. Courtesy of the Agnes Pelton Society.

I fell in love with Agnes Pelton’s paintings when I attended the Channeling Agnes Pelton: Portraits, Landscapes and Readings exhibition at City Hall in Cathedral City last year. Ever since, I’ve been on a search to acquire one of her paintings. They aren’t easy to find. I finally located one that had been put up…

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