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Magic Bus, Mutant Cactus, Desert Light Gallery and More

Everyone’s talking about the faceless babies in Palm Springs, giant sculptures created by Czech artist David Cerny. Those who prefer their art organically grown are buzzing about a bullet-riddled homeless school bus that slumbered along the Mojave Road for at least 35 years. As hundreds of visitors stopped to take photos and add their own paint flourishes, graffiti and stickers, this found object evolved into art. Many travelers marked their own journeys by this landmark so it came as a  collective shock when it disappeared in March, 2018. People reported the bus missing to Chris Ervin, archivist for the Mojave…

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Neal Lucas Hitch, Agnes Pelton Exhibition, Eric Merrell’s Plein Air Poem and more

Neal Lucas Hitch, Agnes Pelton Exhibition, Eric Merrell’s Plein Air Poem and more

If you’re looking for a land art destination now that the Desert X Mirror House is being dismantled, I suggest taking a drive south past the Salton Sea to see Neal Lucas Hitch‘s straw bale observatory. The lunar viewing pod is “an extension of the desert” that takes you upward into the stars and away from selfies and modern culture. Hitch is the son of Imperial Valley Desert Museum director Neal Hitch. The artist’s rallying slogan for his Ocotillo Observatory project: “3 Years. 99 Hay Bales. 1 Dream.” https://istiffenthee.myportfolio.com/contact Palm Desert Dome Artist Jack Rowe Dies Palm Desert artist Jack…

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J. Smeaton Chase, Kim Stringfellow, Joshua Tree Mapmaker and More

For artists new to the desert and looking for a guide to its essence, track down a copy of J. Smeaton Chase’s 1919 volume California Desert Trails. The English-born Chase traveled with early Palm Springs artist Carl Eytel; his words have inspired contemporary desert painters Terry Masters, Eric Merrell and others. As an intro to Chase, Jim Develyn’s new blog highlights passages from his work. (Chase also wrote about Yosemite and the California Coast.) Develyn says he wants to “put this wonderful writer’s words in front of more people”. Though I’ve spent hours with California Desert Trails in the past,…

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Jimmy’s Kiddies, Desert Lampmakers, Route 66 Art Museum and More

Arizona art dealer and author Gary Fillmore continues his absorbing Looking for Jimmy series, named for the former Palm Desert artist Jimmy Swinnerton. In a recent episode Gary solved the mystery of the Canyon Kiddies figurines. A woman phoned Gary a decade ago and said she had some Canyon Kiddies figurines Swinnerton had given to her late mother. (The Canyon Kiddies was Swinnerton’s popular comic strip circa 1922-1941.) It was only recently that Gary discovered the origin of the charming figures. Read the caper here and be on the lookout for these rare Kiddies in your local thrift store. https://lookingforjimmy.com/2017/01/28/now-back-to-jimmy/ Jimmy…

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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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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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