Katherine McKay: California Roaming

Katherine McKay: California Roaming

Ed. Update–We are sorry to report that Katherine McKay died of cancer, in Richmond, Calif., on October 12, 2011.   Editor’s Note—We’ve been telling you about the early desert painters; with this essay by Katherine McKay we shift into the present. This is the first of an ongoing series about (and sometimes by) artists who are now exploring the deserts. Although I am based in the San Francisco Bay area, the entire state of California has become my home. Since 1989 I have been traveling for part of every year to the deserts, mountains and seacoasts of California.  I live…

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Save the Carl Bray Gallery; Submit a Comment by July 19th

Save the Carl Bray Gallery; Submit a Comment by July 19th

The most significant brick-and-mortar monument to the Smoketree School of desert painters is the Carl Bray home and gallery in Indian Wells, Calif. As well as being the last remaining scrap of the original village of Indian Wells, Bray’s gallery was home to the original Smoketree painter himself, a man who knew Fred Chisnall, Maynard Dixon, R. Brownell McGrew and many of the original desert artists. At age 93, Carl Bray still lives and paints in nearby Banning, California. The City of Indian Wells has been trying to tear down Bray’s home for years (even while he was still living…

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Carl Bray: Grandpa Moses of the Desertlands

Carl Bray: Grandpa Moses of the Desertlands

I’m sitting at Gramma’s restaurant in Banning, California, with the 92-year-old artist Carl Bray across the table from me. The legendary “smoketree painter” of Indian Wells, Carl is one of the last of the early desert artists. With his huge railroadman’s hands, he pushes aside the plates and unfolds a map of New Mexico to show me where he first steered “Brownie”--the esteemed Western painter R. Brownell McGrew--into Navajo country. (Brownie lived in Cathedral City in the 1950s and then in La Quinta—read more about him here soon.)

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Honoring Sally Ward and Louise Tennyson

Honoring Sally Ward and Louise Tennyson

UPDATE:  Louise Tennyson Goble died on July 15, 2010, in Palm Springs. She is survived by her husband, Floyd Goble of Palm Springs, and son Gary Pierce of New York City, along with other relatives. This June CDA recognizes two classic desert painters associated with the venerable Desert Art Center in Palm Springs. Sally Ward turned 101 this month, and is still painting. She moved to Tucson in 2006 and is now living at the home of her daughter, Sue Ward. Sally Ward’s friend, Louise Tennyson, had a gallery in downtown Palm Springs in the 1980s and is known for…

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Agnes Martin’s “The Desert” Fails to Bring Huge Price

Agnes Martin’s “The Desert” Fails to Bring Huge Price

Art experts predicted that Agnes Martin’s painting “The Desert” would bring $4-6 million at a Sotheby’s auction in May. Instead, the minimum price was not met and the painting remains unsold—though other Martin paintings sold at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions in May. Some critics said the large work did not sell because it’s too overwhelming to be appreciated outside a gallery setting. Martin lived in the New Mexico desert most of her life, dying in 2004 in Taos. She is linked to the Cathedral City painter Agnes Pelton by a shared first name, a devotion to the desert and a…

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