Carl Bray: Rare Images and a New Exhibit

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The Historical Society of Palm Desert is opening an exhibit of Carl Bray’s last paintings, along with a display of memorabilia from his studio loaned by the Indian Wells Historic Preservation Foundation. The opening reception is Saturday, October 5, 2013, from 11 am to 1 pm. For information, see

A folk hero to desert art lovers, Bray died on July 23, 2011 at age 94. At his memorial service in Banning, his children showed a slide show of his life as a railroadman, father, fisherman, inventor, bridge-builder, humanitarian, artist and Indian Wells homesteader. For those who didn’t attend, you’ll find some of the images below, minus the stirring banjo accompaniment by Carls’s son, Michael Bray.


The artist and his big sister.

Carl worked as a Southern Pacific brakeman for 40 years and built his home and gallery on Highway 111 in Indian Wells in 1952. The smoketree artist served as David to Indian Wells’ Goliath, fighting for decades to keep his slice of the original village intact. Despite a campaign by local preservationists, the gallery Carl built by hand–the last remaining structure of old Indian Wells–was demolished by the City in 2010. Here, in a series of images, is a window on Carl Bray’s life and adventures. We’ll show more images in Part Two. Thanks to Patrick Bray for sharing the slides.

Parents Sherman and Jesse Bray

Parents Sherman and Jesse Bray


Carl and sisters

Carl, second from left, and siblings

Colcord Oklahoma High School senior class of 1934. Carl is at top left.

Colcord Oklahoma High School senior class of 1934. Carl is at top left.


Garden City, Kansas, 1935, age 18.

Garden City, Kansas, 1935, age 18.

Carl in 1936, shortly after arriving in California.

Carl in 1936, shortly after arriving in California.


Patrick (in railroad uniform) and Carl Bray

Conductor Patrick and Carl Bray at the Indio train station.

Drawing of one of Carl's inventions.

Drawing of one of Carl’s inventions.

Carl and Pat Bray and Carl's steam-powered VW

Carl and Michael Bray with Carl’s steam-powered VW

Building the Indian Wells gallery

Building the Indian Wells gallery

Carl Bray's Gallery, demolished by the City of Indian Wells in 2010.

Carl Bray’s Gallery, demolished by the City of Indian Wells in 2010.

10 comments for “Carl Bray: Rare Images and a New Exhibit

  1. Beautiful job, Ann! Thanks for that. He was one special and Luella was a special woman. Really loved those two. Thanks. I do not have a printer. Is there a way I can get a copy of that? You always were a good friend to Carl. Thanks

  2. I love Carl Bray’s art work. His gallery was there longer than I have been alive. I rarely go that direction; did not know I.W. tore it down! His gallery was iconic. Shame on Indian Wells … as IF they needed funds!?! To demolish it at all was sinful, but to have done so while he was still here must have hurt him very deeply; it hurts me to know. There was no excuse good enough. Am sickened.

  3. Hello from England. My Father purchased a Carl Bray painting approx 24 years ago from a little antique type store in New Hampshire. We are researching the history of Mr Bray and his paintings.

    We were wondering if it now has any value and what we should do with the painting?

    Thank you for any advice. Mrs Jennifer Leonard

  4. Hi Ann! Wonderful to meet you at the IWHPF meeting. Your site features a collection of interesting photos that readers appreciate. I’m hoping we might meet up eventually to discuss your inclusion in the book for Indian Wells. Your knowledge and images tell an important story and honor a significant local figure. A dedicated chapter would be a valued addition.

  5. I remember the little village of Indian Wells. I remember each day of school, picking Mike up in front of his dad’s gallery and dropping him off on the way home on the school bus. I never met Mr. Bray but loved looking at his paintings…he was so talented! It was a sad day to hear of his site being torn down…so sad to witness “progress” destroying history.

  6. In the mid 1940’s the Bray family lived across the street from our family. Carl gave my parents some of his first desert paintings. This was on Lashbrook Street in El Monte, California. Both families moved away about the same time and although they kept in touch for a few years they eventually lost track of one another. It was an interesting time. Young families building their future. It’s nice to see all that Carl accomplished with his life and dreams.

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