The Hidden World of R. Lee Miller and the Araby Rock Houses

The Araby rock house called Casa Contenta. The woman is possibly Perle Wheeler Martin.

If you walk the levee behind the Palm Springs PetCo and look toward the mountain you’ll see them, but barely: four little rock houses. It looks like boulders tumbled down the hillside and assembled themselves into a hamlet out of a children’s story. Aside from one new roof–suggesting occupancy–you’d think the  structures were vacant and about to be bulldozed to make way for luxury homes. I’d puzzled over the hamlet many times over the years. Then I puzzled some more when I heard that Christina Lillian, the glamorous arts patron and friend of Agnes Pelton, had once owned them and…

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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…

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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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