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

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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.

Billie Prigge Seaman, standing, teaches a class in Cathedral City. Photo by Wilson Ellis. Courtesy of the Cathedral City Historical Society.

Billie Prigge Seaman, standing, teaches a class in Cathedral City. Photo by Wilson Ellis. Courtesy of the Cathedral City Historical Society.

The short section on Matille, known as Billie, is worth the price of the book alone. “One could expect to see her in the canyons, washes or other scenic locales with a group of students,” Hillery writes. “Close by would be her vintage car with the windows permanently open. The car was known to all as Billie’s Open Air Taxi.”

The book portrays a close-knit Mayberry that somehow managed to nurture progressive artists–and continues to do so today. Come support the Cathedral City Historical Society and join in art history unfolding. Sunday, June 14th, 11-2 pm Bonta Restaurant, corner of Cathedral Canyon and East Palm Canyon. 68510 East Palm Canyon Dr. For information:

 A Tribute to Edan Hughes, Chronicler of California Artists

If you find an obscure desert painting in a thrift store in Victorville and are able to find a bio of the artist online–you likely have Edan Hughes to thank. Edan Milton Hughes, who died April 21, 2015, dedicated much of his life to his “magnificent obsession”–cataloguing California artists. His two volume guide–Artists in California–is the ultimate resource on known and little-known artists who roamed the Mojave, as well as the Sierra and the coast. The Kentucky-born scholar led an epic life. He was friends with rock impresario Bill Graham, Janis Joplin and lots of culture heroes. Before his death, the San Francisco resident donated many of his paintings to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. An exhibit gallery there was named after him. Thanks to Edan Hughes for his devotion to the lives of the artists.

John Hilton’s Palm Canyon

Janise Rinaldi inherited John Hilton’s palette knife painting Palm Canyon (a scene in Palm Springs’ Indian Canyons), signed and dated April 4, 1938. The painting was featured on the cover of Desert Magazine. If you are interested in acquiring this classic Hilton, contact Janise:

John Hilton, Palm Canyon

John Hilton, Palm Canyon

Rare Salton Sea Painting by MGM Studio Artist John Anthony Conner

Desert at Salton Sea, a large painting by John Anthony Conner, came to Joan DiMaio by way of her 92-year-old aunt who had ties to Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley.

Desert at Salton Sea, John Anthony Conner

Desert at Salton Sea, John Anthony Conner

Salton Sea paintings should be a subset for collectors, as they are atmospheric and hard to find. Joan found information about Conner on Edan Hughes’ website (thanks again, Edan.) Conner (1892-1971) worked in the art departments of MGM and other studios. He specialized in landscapes of the Mojave and the Coachella Valley. If you’re interested in acquiring the painting, contact Joan for details:

Ron Backer Paints Frances Nugent

Our favorite desert historical artist, Ronald Backer (formerly of South Dakota), is at work discovering the Valley’s secrets and painting them at the same time. He recently completed a new painting of the adobe home of 1920s artist Frances Nugent. The home still stands in the La Quinta Cove.

An Artist's Adobe, by Ron Backer

An Artist’s Adobe, by Ron Backer

Ron writes: “Miss Frances Nugent, a 22 year-old artist from New York, moved into her adobe house in unincorporated Thermal in 1926. The location became La Quinta in 1982.” We hope to learn more about Nugent and her art career.

100 San Diego Artists (and a bunch of desert wanderers)

San Diego art historians have uncovered the stories of 100 artists active in the City’s first 100 years. So many of these distinguished artists also painted the deserts, winding their way toward Palm Springs via the Borrego desert. The desert lovers include Charles Reiffel, Alfred Mitchel, Charles Fries, Maurice Braun and more. Through July 26, 2015, the Oceanside Museum of Art displays works from 1915-2015 in an exhibit called 100 Artists, 100 Years: The San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild, 1915-2015. The works were borrowed from artists, collectors, galleries and institutions; many have never been displayed before. A book featuring highlights of the last century of San Diego art is forthcoming.

2 comments for “Billie’s Taxi, Tribute to Edan Hughes, Adobe Dweller Frances Nugent and More

  1. glenda
    June 3, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    lovely episode, dear ann, like high tea in the desert

  2. Linda Messier
    February 4, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    Wonderful pic of Billie Prigge Seaman, it reminds me of what a “personality she was”. Billie was a childhood friend of grandmother’s. I spent many hours as a kid at her ‘Jungle House’ in Azusa admiring her many paintings and getting lost in the bamboo that hid her house and studio from street view a while my father would do home repairs for her.

    I inherited one of her San Jacinto paintings from my grandmother. I also have cards and letters Billie sent to our family through the years.

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