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Desert X Etiquette, Lou Armentrout, Cathedral City Arch, Desert Drawing Club and More

Desert art is in the news this month with the approach of Desert X, the site specific event (February 25-April 30, 2017) that will overlap with the Coachella music festival. A sister event, Joshua Treenial, takes place March 31st through April 2nd in Joshua Tree. While the Smoketree painters connected with the land by camping and roaming on it for decades, many of the arriving artists are out-of-towners who don’t know Tahquitz from Tachevah.     To help them with the local etiquette, the Mojave Desert Land Trust is preparing a guide: Reading the Landscape. The Joshua Tree-based conservation and education…

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Swinnerton Stash, Eric Merrell, Hwy 62 Art Tours, Mary Weatherford on Agnes Pelton and More

Swinnerton Stash, Eric Merrell, Hwy 62 Art Tours, Mary Weatherford on Agnes Pelton and More

When Alan and Lois Stoneman built a home at Thunderbird Country Club in 1960, they asked Jimmy Swinnerton to paint them a smoke tree (a favorite of Alan’s.) Swinny borrowed the throw pillows from the couple’s sofa to make the painting match the decor. Over the years the Stonemans acquired more work by their friend, Swinnerton. Now their son, Alan Stoneman, is looking for a home for all seven of his parents’ sketches and paintings, including a prized scene of Monument Valley. This is a rare opportunity to purchase an entire Swinnerton collection that comes with a direct personal link to the…

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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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New Sven-Ska Photos, Helen Lundeberg, Agnes Martin, William Bartko and more

New Sven-Ska Photos, Helen Lundeberg, Agnes Martin, William Bartko and more

Two major retrospectives of women who drew inspiration from the desert are on view currently in Southern California. Agnes Martin came to New Mexico in the late 1960s and lived alone in an adobe hut on a mesa. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is now displaying the first large-scale retrospective of her minimalist work, April 24-Sept 11, 2016. Martin’s biographer, Nancy Princenthal, cautioned in a recent LA Times interview that we shouldn’t think of Martin as a clichéd desert mystic. Yet she clearly had a love for austerity and open space.  Anyone who has exulted in desert distances…

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Deborah Martin Curates the Salton Sea, Marian Yost Rediscovered, Edan Hughes, Travels With Gary

Five years after her groundbreaking exhibit of Salton Sea art, Valley of the Ancient Lake, Deborah Martin again brings together a mix of artists interpreting the Sea. The new exhibit, The Salton Sea: Lost in Paradise, opens March 21st, 2016, at the Marks Art Center at the College of the Desert in Palm Desert. I asked Deborah how the art of the Sea has evolved in five years. “I think there’s more urgency,” she said. “There’s more despair. I feel it when I go out there. There are imminent public health and wildlife concerns. Things are just looking worse and…

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So Long Ol’ Fren’ Bill Bender, Moonlight Merrell, Jennie Kelly Memorial…More

Bill Bender was the last of the desert painters–the original desert painters, that is.  Of the 13 artists profiled in Ed Ainsworth’s 1960 classic Painters of the Desert, Bender long outlived his compadres. He was a caring friend and a tireless resource for my incessant questions about the painters and places he knew. He’s been so energetic into his 90s–fixing pipes and feeding the wild birds at his Victorville ranch–that it seemed he’d live forever. But I regret to report that Bill died on his 97th birthday, January 5, 2016, at the old Route 66 homestead that had been in…

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A Quartzsite Christmas, Visionary Bill Ogden, Tahquitz Discovery and More

Artist and archaeologist Jim Toenjes sends holiday greetings “from way out Quartzsite way”. The former Palm Springs resident is now a nomadic artist,  traveling the deserts (with winters in Washington state) in a camper with his paints and his dog, Greta. Go see him if you pass through the gem and mineral hub–Quartzsite, Arizona–this winter. Jim writes: “Getting some painting done in prep for the annual Quartzsite Art League show in January, 2016. Attached is my card this year, with a painting from last week. It is 28 x 48 on plywood. Had to hike nearly a mile to the…

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Desert Americana, Western Abstraction, Coyote Fur and Rams’ Horns

Desert Americana, Western Abstraction, Coyote Fur and Rams’ Horns

The Cathedral City Historical Society hosts the master of desert Americana, Ron Backer, at a luncheon Thursday, November 5, 2015. Backer, a transplant from South Dakota, zones in on a neighborhood and soon unearths stories even the locals don’t know; then he paints the tales so they are forever preserved. Art historian Marilyn Cooper will talk about Backer’s narrative approach, as guests enjoy a lunch by Cathedral City’s own Chef Hector. Come and meet Ron Backer and support the Cathedral City Historical Society. http://www.cathedralcityhistoricalsociety.org/special-events.html Andy’s Sea in Long Beach Salton Sea painter Andrew Dickson shows new images of the Sea…

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Carl Bray Sign, Mystery Artist, Rock Talk, Cactus Capers and More

Drivers passing through Indian Wells normally encounter a monotonous stretch of lawns, sidewalks and opulence. Now, though, travelers are sighting a colorful, quirky object on the horizon. It’s the old Carl Bray gallery sign, recently replanted by the City. The resurrection of the palette-shaped Smoke Tree Painter sign is a testament to the tenacity of the Indian Wells Historic Preservation Foundation. The group, led by Adele Ruxton, kept nudging the City for the last five years to see the project through. Preservationists all over the Valley lobbied to save Carl’s roadside gallery and home when it was threatened with demolition…

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Billie’s Taxi, Tribute to Edan Hughes, Adobe Dweller Frances Nugent and More

Fans of Cathedral City artist Agnes Pelton have long awaited the book by the City’s first mayor–and a friend to the early artists–Robert Hillery. At last Cathedral City: the Early Years 1925 to 1981 is in print. You can meet the author at a celebration June 14, 2015, at Bonta Restaurant in Cathedral City. While the book mostly covers small town life, of special interest is Hillery’s personal relationship with Agnes Pelton (she painted his mother’s portrait) as well as painter and art teacher Matille Prigge Seaman. The short section on Matille, known as Billie, is worth the price of…

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