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 Alice Sliger.  It catered to those wanting a long soak in hot, mineral water and for many years served baseball’s Cactus League athletes needing to relax sore muscles after long practices and hard-fought games.  Also, because of the Sligers’ interest in art and their innate…

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Gary Fillmore on Appraising Desert Art

Gary Fillmore on Appraising Desert Art

Ed. intro: “I have a Conrad Buff that belonged to my stepdad’s mother…” “I found a Val Samuelson in my brother’s condo…” People write to this website all the time with questions about found art. The inquiries break down into two categories: “Can you tell me more about the artist?” And “What is it worth?”…

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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.…

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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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