Desert Romantic: The Newly Discovered Letters of Paul Grimm

Paul Grimm with Tillie and Cholla. All images courtesy of Ann Tompkins.

From the 1930s through the 1970s, Paul Grimm’s paintings broadcast a sublime vision of the Palm Springs landscape to tourists from around the world. Yet for all of his importance to desert art, I’ve never known more about him than the standard mini-bio: He painted movie backdrops, ran a gallery downtown, loved his fox terrier named Cholla. Because he left few personal records and had no offspring to tell his story, it seemed we’d never know more. Grimm would forever remain an encyclopedia entry. That changed recently when Harbor City resident Ann Tompkins sent her grandson into her attic to…

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A Passion to Paint: The Brief, but Fruitful, Life of Arnold Otto Krug

Arnold Krug painting al fresco in the Arizona desert, circa 1940.

I made the acquaintance of Arnold Krug, desert artist, while curating an exhibition for the Mesa Historical Museum in Arizona.  This exhibit featured the work of two artists who had  lived for periods of time at Mesa’s historic Buckhorn Baths.  The Baths, a hot-spring spa and resort that catered to baseball’s Cactus league teams, was…

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Effie Anderson Smith: How To Revive the Legend of A Forgotten Artist

Effie Anderson Smith, a Grand Canyon view from 1928. All images courtesy of Steven Carlson.

Effie Anderson Smith was an early Arizona settler and artist who studied with the esteemed California Impressionists Anna Hills and Jean Mannheim. She admired the Salton Sea mirages, declaring them on par with the Sulphur Springs Valley mirages in Arizona. So, for our purposes, she belongs in the annals of California desert art. For her…

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Cabot Yerxa: The Theosophist-Artist of Miracle Hill

Cabot's painting of Seven Palms oasis. Courtesy of Cabot's Pueblo Museum.

One hundred years ago Cabot Yerxa scraped a dugout into a clay bank, claiming a 160-acre homestead on a patch of sand alive with wind and water spirits. (Today we call them energy vortexes.) He spent $10 on a burro, Merry Xmas, then later built a Hopi-style pueblo of 35 rooms, now one of the…

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Emerging from the Shadows: A Survey of Women Artists Working in California, 1860-1960

Shadows book cover

Fans of California art had heard rumors that the fine arts conservator and scholar Maurine St. Gaudens was working on a book about California women artists. Given Maurine’s reputation, it was bound to be big. Now that the four-volume set has been released, though, it’s clear that nothing could have prepared us for this visual…

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