Morongo Art Tours, the Desert Van Gogh and more

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

October 27-28, 2012, Weekend Two of the Hwy 62 Art Tours, is your chance to visit the backroad studios of dozens of high-desert artists in the Morongo Valley, Joshua Tree and beyond. You’ll have to search out the landscape artists amidst all the potters, jewelers and performance artists, but the landscape here is always the main attraction—along with the earthy ambience that stands in refreshing contrast to everything Palm Springs.

Look for the Wonder Valley studio of Robert Arnett (see an article on Arnett on California Desert Art soon), one of the early colonizers of the remote area; and don’t forget David Greene and his Mojave Noir paintings. Outstanding landscape artists include Chuck Caplinger, Tina Bluefield, Esther Shaw and others you’ll have to discover for yourself. Print a map online or pick up a brochure at a local business, then circle your favorite destinations and proceed with high expectations down dirt roads.


The Historical Society of Palm Desert has purchased Ron Backer’s “Birth of a Town” (a painting depicting early Palm Desert) and is holding a drawing for 25 certified and numbered giclees of the work. For $1 you have a chance to win a piece by this much-lauded historical artist from South Dakota, now turning his skills to the stories of the desert. If you don’t want to wait for the drawing, giclee copies are for sale for $250.

Ron Backer and “Birth of a Town”. Photo by Elie Marty.

Also watch for an exhibit of this rising star’s work November 29, 2012 to December 2nd,2012 at the historic Shadow Mountain Club in Palm Desert.

For information:

Desert painter Charles Reiffel is about to make a huge leap in popularity, with two major shows of his work opening November 10, 2012 through February 12 , 2013, in San Diego. In a rare collaboration, the exhibits appear at the San Diego History Center and the San Diego Museum of Art concurrently. While many desert landscapes inevitably look similar, there’s no mistaking the undulating exuberance of Reiffel’s hills and dunes. He was compared favorably to Gauguin and Van Gogh by some critics; criticized by others for being too bold.  Moving to San Diego in 1925, he spent much of his time in the backcountry, or the back road to Palm Springs, as we think of it. From the titles of his paintings we know he frequented Coachella Valley locations such as the Indian Canyons and the Indian Wells dunes (now extinct).

“He painted to express to others that there was this powerful, emotional, Godlike quality in the backcountry of San Diego. That scared off a lot of people,” says San Diego art historian Bram Dijkstra in an interview with San Diego Magazine.

Charles Reiffel painting a mural.

Reiffel has been called “The American Van Gogh” and “one of the more daring painters of the 20th Century” (Dijkstra). This is your opportunity to see what scared some critics and amazed others.


Borrego Springs is increasingly a nexus for desert art. We’re all waiting for the big event–the opening of the Borrego Art Institute gallery later this season–but meanwhile you can preview top California landscape paintings at the Art of the Inn event at the Borrego Valley Inn, November 7-10, 2012.

The impressive roster includes:

Saim Caglayan, Laguna Beach (

Ken Auster, Laguna Beach (

Scott Burdick, King, NC (

John Burton, Carmel (

Mark Kerckhoff, San Juan Capistrano (

A reception and sales event open to the public will be held Saturday. November 10, from 5-7 pm. Info:

Mark Kerckhoff, Anza-Borrego




1 comment for “Morongo Art Tours, the Desert Van Gogh and more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *