For every desert painter found in books, hundreds more were faithful to the terrain–but are not so well-known as yet. Two such devoted desert painters passed away recently. Clonard Bunn Thomas of Palm Desert died February 10, 2013. With her artist husband Bruce she managed the Aerie Art Garden, a 20 acre retreat in the Cahuilla Hills. Thomas painted with the Coachella Valley Watercolor Society’s “Field Mice” and rendered the local landscape with intensity and openness to abstraction. For painting tips from Clonard and Bruce Thomas, see: http://www.aerieartgarden.com/artistcorner3.html
Elsie Grace, 91, died on February 15, 2013. She taught watercolor at Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree for 33 years and nurtured a band of perennial students known as Elsie’s Army. Grace learned to paint as a child on a kit from the five-and-dime and later worked as an aeronautical draftswoman in World War II. Among her many desert works was a commissioned series of more than 200 watercolor views of the La Quinta Hotel casitas. Her family has established an art scholarship in her name at Copper Mountain College. For information see: http://elsiegracememorial.com/
Kathi Hilton Show and Agnes Pelton Weekend
The month long Desertscapes extravaganza opens April 1, 2013. Among the highlights is an exhibit of paintings by Kathi Hilton and her late father, John, at the Historical Society of Palm Desert. The show is held in cooperation with the Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery. Kathi Hilton will be traveling from her Utah home to attend the opening reception April 13 at noon. Don’t miss the chance to meet a member of a legendary desert art dynasty. For more on Kathi Hilton, see: http://www.californiadesertart.com/?p=1561
Arrive early at the Historical Society of Palm Desert on April 13 (9-12 am) to have your desert and Western paintings appraised by two of the most in-demand appraisers of California art—Kevin Stewart (http://kevinstewartfineart.com/) and Gary Fillmore. (http://www.bluecoyotegallery.com/). There is a $10 per item fee and reservations are recommended. For more on the above events see: www.HSPD.org.
Also don’t miss the weekend celebration, Channeling Agnes Pelton, in Cathedral City on April 6 and 7th. Hear novelist Mari Coates speak on Saturday and playwright Nancy Strow Sheley on Sunday, and view an unprecedented local exhibit of Pelton’s art. For information on any of the above events see: www.Desertscapes.net
Agnes Pelton Mystery
For you Agnes Pelton fans, here is a mystery to warm you up for the big Pelton weekend April 6th and 7th. Julie Verhagen of Denver (formerly of Palm Springs) owns a piece of rare Pelton ephemera. It appears to be a sepia-toned photo of a Pelton painting, 4-1/2″ x 8″, signed lower left, with a hand-painted deco border. Whether this card was made by Pelton herself, or made by someone else using a photo of her work is part of the mystery.
On the back in blue ink it says: “To Helen from Gladys, Dec. 25 1947.”
Julie Verhagen has been a Pelton fan ever since seeing her “Seeds of Date” painting at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Now she enjoys marveling at the personal touches on the card: Is that a spot of tea from Agnes’ tea set currently owned by Bob and Kay Hillery? The poem on the front of the card is by Elizabeth DaVall; the DaVall family were prominent date growers in Cathedral City. Verhagen says: “Who’s Elizabeth? Who’s Helen? Who’s Gladys? I’m just groping for some connections.”
Might Helen and Gladys be members of the bohemian women’s society that existed in Cathedral City in the 1940s? Verhagen, who also collects Stephen Willard postcards, is willing to part with the card, preferably to be included in a collection of Peltonia. Please comment below or write to Julie Verhagen at: email@example.com
Desert Places Exhibit in La Mesa
O’Dunn Fine Art in La Mesa is a find for fans of desert art. The proprietor, Shannon O’Dunn is a geologist with a naturalist’s eye for the deserts. Also a painter herself, O’Dunn always has a few prime desert paintings on display. Currently she’s featuring an exhibit called Desert Places (the name comes from a poem by Robert Frost). The desert landscapes in oils and pastel include gallery artists Richard McDaniel, Miguel Dominguez, Paul Strahm, W. Jason Situ, Teri Gortmaker, S.C. Mummert, and Stan Sowinski (1927-2010), along with listed 20th century artists Alfred Mitchell, Langdon Smith, Karl Yens, and Karl Albert. Fans of Smoketree art would do well to look to O’Dunn’s gallery and the San Diego backcountry as a source for overlooked desert artists and desert scenes.