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 most beloved handmade houses in California. Desert-dwellers know this story. But you might not know that Cabot traveled with a sketchbook and paints strapped to his burro. You might not know that he was pals with Jimmy Swinnerton, Agnes Pelton and Carl Eytel, or that…

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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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The Lost Colony of Sven-Ska: Christina Lillian and the Cathedral City Artists

Christina Lillian at home CC

Evan Lindquist heard stories about his Aunt Emma all his life. She was a beautiful blonde artist–a friend to Greta Garbo and D.H. Lawrence–and she ruled over an artists’ colony called Sven-Ska somewhere out in the California desert. To a boy growing up in small town Kansas, Sven-Ska seemed as exotic as Atlantis. This legendary…

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Arne Trettevik: The Star Shaman of South Palm Canyon

Arne, Palms 3

When Arne Trettevik’s Alfa Romeo sputtered to a halt in Palm Springs in the late 1990s, it seemed his daring life was stalling out too. He had hitched dugout canoe rides in Belize, taught at Esalen and inspired consciousness pioneers such as Stanislav Grof.  Now–broke down and alone–he moved into a courtyard  cottage just off…

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Smoke Tree George: The Fabled Life and Times of George Frederick Gleich

Buckhorn Baths postcard

My fascination with George “Smoketree” Frederick, quintessential desert artist and Wild West character, began innocently enough when I was asked by the Mesa Historical Museum to curate a small exhibit of artwork from the Buckhorn Mineral Baths collection. The Buckhorn, a now defunct mini-resort in east Mesa, Arizona, was owned and operated by Ted and…

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