Museum Exhibits

John Hilton and the Smoketree Gang

Editor’s note–In anticipation of Kathi Hilton’s visit to Palm Desert March 17-20, 2017, we’re featuring Dan Rohlfing’s article about Kathi’s dad, John Hilton, and his own Wild Bunch of friends. John Hilton, who died in 1983, ran with a circle that included Agnes Pelton, Clyde Forsythe, Maynard Dixon, Bill Bender, Nicolai Fechin, Desert Magazine editor Randall Henderson, Zane Grey and others. The article–reprinted from Dan and Linda Rohlfing’s Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery newsletter–shows how the Smoketree School‘s strength was based not on individual celebrity but on a web of relationships. The friends spanned the fields of government, journalism, Hollywood, literature,…

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

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 nephew’s purposes, though, she belongs everywhere. I’ve watched in admiration as San Diego resident Steven Carlson has restored Effie’s name to public view from Laguna to Bisbee. If you have an obscure desert artist to promote–or are one yourself–you’ll want to heed the story of…

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Cabot Yerxa: The Theosophist-Artist of Miracle Hill

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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Carl Bray: Rare Images Part Two

Here are more rarely seen images from Carl Bray’s life, courtesy of his son, Patrick Bray. An exhibit of Carl’s final paintings just opened at the The Historical Society of Palm Desert.  The opening reception is Saturday, October 5, 2013, from 11 am to 1 pm. For information, see www.hspd.org.

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Carl Bray: Rare Images and a New Exhibit

Carl Bray: Rare Images and a New Exhibit

The Historical Society of Palm Desert is opening an exhibit of Carl Bray’s last paintings, along with a display of memorabilia from his studio loaned by the Indian Wells Historic Preservation Foundation. The opening reception is Saturday, October 5, 2013, from 11 am to 1 pm. For information, see www.hspd.org. A folk hero to desert art lovers, Bray died on July 23, 2011 at age 94. At his memorial service in Banning, his children showed a slide show of his life as a railroadman, father, fisherman, inventor, bridge-builder, humanitarian, artist and Indian Wells homesteader. For those who didn’t attend, you’ll…

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Q&A with Greg Frux: How to Be an Expedition Artist

The Brooklyn-based artist Gregory William Frux is a master of adventure art in Joshua Tree, Death Valley and all over the world. Also known as exploration art or expedition art, the practice dates to an era when documentary artists routinely accompanied major military and surveying parties. Today only a few quirky souls like Greg and his partner Janet Morgan pursue the romantic trade. A mountaineer and backpacker, Greg has ascended 67 peaks higher than  10,000 feet. His work has been honored by such diverse organizations as the Brooklyn Arts Council, The Library of Congress, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority…

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Norton Allen: Tracking the Elusive Mapmaker

Note: Through April 30, 2011, the Historical Society of Palm Desert presents the first contemporary display of Norton Allen’s work. Some 25 maps are on loan from book dealer William Dailey. Also on display are Norton Allen sketches and artifacts. www.HSPD.org My fascination with Norton Allen goes back to a hot day 15 years ago when I brought home a cardboard box of old Desert Magazines. The magazine, published from 1937 to 1985, offered an alternative to the Palm Springs of golf and martinis, introducing me instead to an appealing world of mirages, ghost towns and lost treasure. Then there…

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Cady Wells and the Desert Modern

I’m no longer surprised when I hear about a hot Southwestern artist and then find he or she had ties to the Coachella Valley. In fact, I’ve come to expect those connections. The newest discovery is Henry Cady Wells, a modernist Santa Fe artist who lived in Palm Springs at one time. Georgia O’Keeffe once remarked that she and her friend Wells were the two best artists from their region. And while Wells has been relatively obscure till now, his day has come largely due to the efforts of Lois P. Rudnick, editor of a satisfying new book from the…

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Indio Water Tower, Banning Art Scene, Samuel DeWalt Arner, Made in the Mojave and More

Indio Water Tower, Banning Art Scene, Samuel DeWalt Arner, Made in the Mojave and More

The Desert X team may want to look to Indio for an example of site-specific art firmly rooted in the desert soil. You start with a local ingredient, in this case a 95-year-old water tower that stood at the corner of Ave 48 and Jackson St. (now Coachella) on the old M.H. Whittier Ranch. The tower was moved to the Coachella Valley Historical Society grounds in 1993, as a memorial to a local date grower. The staff took up a fundraising drive to evict the pigeons and repair the scaffolding. Then you add indigenous art. Because water towers were often…

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Lost Desert Artists, Erin Hanson’s Painted Parks, Bill Ogden, Hilbert Museum and More

Lost Desert Artists, Erin Hanson’s Painted Parks, Bill Ogden, Hilbert Museum and More

One of the premier Impressionist painters in the US in the early 1900s,  Julian Itter was also a Mojave desert artist and gold miner. Yet none of his desert paintings have been found. Adrienne Sadlo, a student at Eastern Washington University, hopes to find the paintings as part of her thesis project on Itter. Before moving to California in 1926, Julian Itter painted extensively in the mountains of Washington state, helping to preserve Lake Chelan and earning the title Father of North Cascades National Park. “When Julian moved to Southern California in 1926 he kept his passion for art and…

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