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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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