Out of the Desert: Internment Camp Art Discovered in Banning

Editor’s note: Banning historian Bill Bell recently unearthed a rare trove of art inspired by exile. The hand-stitched scrapbook–poems, essays and linoleum prints–was made by high school students interned at the Poston Relocation Camp, three miles from the Arizona side of the Colorado River and north of Blythe. The internationally acclaimed sculptor Isamu Noguchi voluntarily moved to the camp in 1942 and may have helped to instruct the young artists. The scrapbook is discussed here by the man who found it.    While sorting through decades of donated items to the Banning Public Library I recently found a scrapbook from…

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Victory Ride: The Memoirs of 29 Palms Artist Chuck Caplinger

Editor’s note–Chuck Caplinger, a leader in the 29 Palms arts scene, recently published his life story. An Artist’s Journey: Memoirs of the Creative Life of Artist Chuck Caplinger follows Chuck from his childhood in Pasadena, Texas, through his tenure as a NASA artist, then on to painting custom vans and film posters in Hollywood. It culminates in the momentous Harley ride that led him to Twentynine Palms and his current incarnation as a desert and wildlife painter. In the chapter excerpted here, the artist nicknamed Cowboy is commissioned to paint a Desert Storm Victory Parade mural in 29 Palms. The…

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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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