Galleries

Barbara Gothard: Surrealism and the Desert of Dreams

When I heard there was a surrealist living off of South Palm Canyon Drive, near my favorite Indian Canyons haunts, I felt like a botanist who’d discovered a rare desert lily. In Palm Springs we have installation artists, landscape painters, post-modernists and tiki artists–but surrealists? Those are from Paris and New York. Well, not all of them. There were some noted surrealists inspired by the California desert, including Dorr Bothwell–who lived in Joshua Tree in the 1960s–and Helen Lundeberg, who spent time in Palm Springs and Death Valley. I’d always admired these bold painters and never thought I’d encounter their…

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Vaughan Davies: New Light on Tahquitz

I would have told you I know Tahquitz Canyon well. I’ve studied the jagged mouth from my backyard for 21 years. I’ve watched the shadow of the witch glide across the canyon in the mornings and have even trekked to the third waterfall to visit a former hermit-in-residence. So I thought I knew this place–as emblematic of Palm Springs as Ayers Rock is of Australia. But then I saw a Tahquitz painting by Vaughan Davies. Here was a tilted slab rearing up as if about to speak. A spiky monolith, slightly foreboding. This was a Tahquitz new to me. In…

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Funeral in the Rocks: A Tale of Cathedral City’s Early Artists

In honor of Cathedral City’s 35th anniversary celebration (November, 2016) we’re featuring vintage photos of the town, on display through December 18th at the City Hall Art Gallery. Accompanying the images is an excerpt from Painted Rocks by Josephine Morse True. This hard-to-find memoir depicts the village and the artists, as they were in 1935 when True lived there. Of all the Coachella Valley cities, Cathedral City claims the most beguiling art story: an early band of free spirits gathered around the artist Agnes Pelton and the teachings of Theosophy. Instead of remaining aloof from their neighbors (as bohemians tend…

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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?” I love the first category because it often leads to the discovery of neglected desert artists. The juiciest queries have a seed of a story attached: “I have a painting that was given to my great aunt who lived in Mecca since 1914 when her…

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Hermann Fischer, Karl May and the Desert of Imagination

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 of the imagination in popular novels that continue to inspire Europeans to flock to the American West today. Now a Palm Desert resident, Hermann Fischer was incubated with his love of open distance when he was still a child. But his craving for Western spaces…

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Through the Red Rock Doorway: A Q&A With Erin Hanson

Mystical transformations famously take place in a single moment. One minute you’re ordinary and the next “the great door, that does not look like a door, opens,” in the words of Stephen Graham. That’s pretty much what happened to Erin Hanson when she was climbing in the red rocks near Las Vegas. Yes she had laid the groundwork by studying art at Otis College of Art and later at UC Berkeley (with a detour into bioengineering). But then all at once—as she was hanging onto a rock slab fifty feet above the desert floor–she knew she had to paint rock,…

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Burt Procter: A Cowboy Modernist on Miracle Hill

Up on Miracle Hill in Desert Hot Springs, the pueblo-builder and snake-tender Cabot Yerxa took painting lessons from his neighbor, Burt Procter, while Procter’s young daughter Ginny played on a packed dirt floor, sprinkled down with water to keep it cool. Procter had purchased land from Cabot and planned to build a cabin next door to the Pueblo, now a tourist attraction. He would be the first settler in Cabot’s dreamed-of arts colony. While the colony never materialized, Ginny and her parents often drove out from Corona del Mar in the early 1950s to camp on their land and visit…

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Four Days, Fifteen Artists, Death Valley

Four Days, Fifteen Artists, Death Valley

In March, 2012, after 40 years of enjoying visits and painting Death Valley, I brought in reinforcements in the form of eight artist friends to help me capture the beauty of this magical place. The paint-out led me to publish Painting Death Valley to inspire other artists to take up the challenge. The outcome was so rewarding that a return in March 2013 was virtually a no-brainer. I returned this time with 12 friends and two photographers to document the event. The new book, Painting in Death Valley Again (excerpts below) complements the first and is largely about the artists…

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Stephen Willard’s Mammoth Lakes Gallery Reopening

Portland art dealers Robert and Sue Joki were looking for an encore career to crown 25 years of success in the gallery business. They found their opening courtesy of the early Palm Springs photographer Stephen Willard. In May, 2013, the couple will reopen Willard’s Mammoth Lakes cabin and studio as a center for Sierra and Yosemite art. While Mammoth is not exactly smoke tree territory, the new Gallery at Twin Lakes is great news for followers of desert art. In California, the desert artists overlap with mountain artists, just as the mountains and deserts themselves overlap. Follow a desert artist…

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The Desert Art Dynasty of John and Kathi Hilton

The Desert Art Dynasty of John and Kathi Hilton

The painter Kathi Hilton Garvin, art dealer Dan Rohlfing and I had just finished dinner at the 29 Palms Inn. The sky was turning pink then blue, like a Technicolor Hilton painting, when Dan suggested that we try to find John Hilton’s old 29 Palms homestead, playhouse to movie stars and desert artists. As we crammed into my Subaru, I wasn’t so sure about this plan. It was getting dark and no one really knew where we were going except that it was out in nowhere. Dan, co-owner of Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery on the Sonoma coast, had never been…

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