Featured

Victory Ride: The Memoirs of 29 Palms Artist Chuck Caplinger

Editor’s note–Chuck Caplinger, a leader in the 29 Palms arts scene, recently published his life story. An Artist’s Journey: Memoirs of the Creative Life of Artist Chuck Caplinger follows Chuck from his childhood in Pasadena, Texas, through his tenure as a NASA artist, then on to painting custom vans and film posters in Hollywood. It culminates in the momentous Harley ride that led him to Twentynine Palms and his current incarnation as a desert and wildlife painter. In the chapter excerpted here, the artist nicknamed Cowboy is commissioned to paint a Desert Storm Victory Parade mural in 29 Palms. The…

Read more »

Radical Cartography: Obi Kaufmann and The California Field Atlas

There’s a new name in the pantheon of mapmaker artists. Joining a distinguished line-up that includes Desert magazine’s Norton Allen, Obi Kaufmann is a poet-artist-adventurer who set out to inhale the entire state of California by hiking, camping, dreaming, painting and drawing maps. His mammoth compendium, The California Field Atlas (released this month from Heyday books), combines more than 300 hand-painted maps with watercolor paintings of mountains and wildlife. Obi will be signing books at the Borrego Art Institute on September 14th, 2017. His artwork from the chapter Of Life, Death and the Desert will be on display at the gallery…

Read more »

Victor Thall: The Forgotten Abstract Expressionist of Snow Creek

Snow Creek is a village of a few dozen old fishing cabins and bohemian homesteads, encircled by wilderness and only ten minutes from Palm Canyon Drive. When I went to interview Mildred Herwood here some years ago, I noticed that her little red house claimed the choicest spot in a choice setting. Mildred was snug against the mighty face of Mt. San Jacinto. Our conversation took place long before I was writing about desert artists, so I barely took note when Mildred mentioned that she had moved here to live and study with an abstract painter who was friends with…

Read more »

The John Hilton House in 29 Palms: Artists’ Playhouse Restored

When LA resident Jamie Caffrey went looking for Twentynine Palms real estate a few years ago, he knew he wanted a pool. Driving out to view one listing, he found smashed windows, busted children’s toys and debris strewn everywhere. There was indeed a pool–once a gathering place for the desert artists–but now it was just a dark hole in the ground. Jamie had never heard of the former owner, artist John Hilton, but he says: “The house had a mystery about it. It captured my imagination.” So it happened that the Irish-born Caffrey–he formerly worked in the music and film…

Read more »

Marcia Geiger: The Secret Lives of Vintage Trailers

The Tin Goose was just an old school bus parked outside the Joshua Tree Saloon until Marcia Geiger decided to make it the subject of a painting. In Geiger’s version, the Goose looks at you head-on and unflinching. It seems to be reciting the dreams and defeats of every seeker who ever lived aboard. The piece won the Preston Ormsby Award for Excellence at the 2016 Palm Springs Artists Council Exhibit (ACE Show), and the image became an instant High Desert classic. The Nebraska-born artist has made a years-long study of the “infinite procession” of transformed buses and campers she’s…

Read more »

When Chuckwallas Dream: The Cahuilla Hills Homestead of Susan Smith Evans

Lucky is the artist who bonds with a significant place. Georgia O’Keeffe had her Abiquiu, Agnes Pelton her Mt. San Jacinto, and Susan Smith Evans–who died in an accident on March 6, 2017–her Cahuilla Hills, a rustic hideaway just outside Palm Desert. Drive three miles up Highway 74 from 111 and you’ll find a neighborhood graced with natural landscaping and remnants of 1940s jackrabbit homesteads; it feels more like Joshua Tree and the high desert than the Coachella Valley. A printmaker, painter and photographer, Susan Smith Evans taught in the College of the Desert (COD) art department for more than…

Read more »

Jim Toenjes: The Path of a Migratory Desert Painter

Longtime Palm Springs resident Jim Toenjes took off in his trailer four years ago, with his paints and his German Shepherd Greta by his side. His itinerant lifestyle resembles that of the early desert artists who made a seasonal circuit from Palm Springs to the Arizona Navajo country and then up to the Sierra in summer. It’s a life many of us envy, and in this Q&A Jim tells us what it’s like being a painter At Large in the World, as he calls himself. —Many people would be hesitant to go nomadic for fear of being too cold, too…

Read more »

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,…

Read more »

Still Life: Eric Merrell Looks at the Orange and Agave

In the hierarchy of genres taught in art history class, desert landscapes would be low on the list. But they positively rule compared to the lowly still life. Fortunately, the lowest-rated form has a new champion in Eric Merrell. The Pasadena artist has a style and intensity that attracts followers for whatever he’s doing, whether it’s painting Joshua Trees at midnight or a potted Euphorbia in his own backyard. Merrell grew up in Gilroy, California, where his parents still live. After earning an BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, he went on to paint California landscapes…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

NEWS

Subscribe

More News