Swinnerton Stash, Eric Merrell, Hwy 62 Art Tours, Mary Weatherford on Agnes Pelton and More

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

When Alan and Lois Stoneman built a home at Thunderbird Country Club in 1960, they asked Jimmy Swinnerton to paint them a smoke tree (a favorite of Alan’s.) Swinny borrowed the throw pillows from the couple’s sofa to make the painting match the decor. Over the years the Stonemans acquired more work by their friend, Swinnerton.

Jimmy Swinnerton with Alan and Lois Stoneman. To the right is Palm Springs Museum director Fred Sleight.

Jimmy Swinnerton with Alan and Lois Stoneman. To the right is Palm Springs Museum director Fred Sleight.

Now their son, Alan Stoneman, is looking for a home for all seven of his parents’ sketches and paintings, including a prized scene of Monument Valley. This is a rare opportunity to purchase an entire Swinnerton collection that comes with a direct personal link to the artist. When Swinnerton first came to Palm Springs in 1903, he said his friends called it a “drab heckhole”; it was no place for an artist. He painted it anyway, and is today the most famous of the California desert painters. For information and images contact: alanorps@yahoo.com


Mary Weatherford Riffs on Agnes Pelton

One of the country’s leading contemporary abstract painters, Mary Weatherford has been called by W magazine: “one of the eight women artists storming the boy’s club.” This rising star became acquainted with Theosophy while growing up in Ojai, California, and was later drawn to the work of Cathedral City’s own Theosophist artist, Agnes Pelton. Weatherford recently gave a talk– Agnes Pelton and the American Transcendental–at Ballroom Marfa. marfa-ballroomThe freewheeling exploration weaves in references to Emerson, Moby Dick, Charles Burchfield, Marsden Hartley and Madame Blavatsky. I wish there was more on the Cathedral City years, but perhaps Weatherford will do a follow-up talk on the roots of abstraction in the desert. See the video here:


Final Month for Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery

The Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery has been one of the few outposts statewide for historical desert art. Now another gallery is taking over the space and Linda Sorenson and Dan Rohlfing will be making new plans, hopefully involving vintage art of California. If you are traveling north in October, 2016, this is your last chance to stop by and see the current exhibit by attorney-artist Linda Sorenson.

Linda Sorenson, Nature's Abstract, Grand Canyon

Linda Sorenson, Nature’s Abstract, Grand Canyon

Linda got her start as an abstract expressionist painter in the late 1950s and 1960s and has developed a winning style combining California Impressionism and midcentury  regionalism. While you’re there ask the gallery owners to bring out their John Hiltons and other early desert paintings.



Eric Merrell Goes to the Sources

Eric Merrell is a painter who goes back to the original sources, the artists and writers who roamed the desert long before the Coachella crowds. He recently found an original copy of J. Smeaton Chase’s Our Araby. Tucked inside was a mesmerizing photo of a woman walking through a wash, a wash that looked familiar to the painter.

“I went out to Joshua Tree these last few days and spent a few days camping and painting, so I brought the photo along to check it out,” Eric writes. By matching up the hills along 111 just outside Palm Springs–a place he has often painted–he was able to find the exact spot. The woman in the photo remains a mystery but the location is solved: Whitewater.eric-whitewater-2


Eric does a lot of thinking about deserts and art and it’s always inspiring to follow his thoughts. To go along, look at his Twitter or Instagram pages:




New Coachella Valley Museum Director, Patricia Sablak-Korzec

Since we’re exploring the places where desert art and history meet, a perfect pairing is the new executive director of the Coachella Valley History Museum. Patricia Sablak-Korzec is a plein air painter and a member of Women Painters West.  As the new director of the venerable museum she’ll be sharing space with early desert paintings stashed in the Museum archives.

Georgia's Mountains

Patricia Sablak-Korzec, Georgia’s Mountains

Patricia Sablak-Korzec at the Grand Canyon

Patricia Sablak-Korzec at the Grand Canyon

“We will be displaying some of our early California artists here at the museum over the next year,” Patricia says. “I have already pulled some out of storage and hung them in my office. I will also be teaching a plein air workshop at the museum late this fall (2016).” We welcome Patricia to the Valley and anticipate a fruitful partnership for art and history.



George Frederick Gleich’s Mt. San Jacinto

Rebecca Akins’ article on George Fredrick Gleich https://www.californiadesertart.com/?p=2509 continues to turn up new examples of his work. Most recently this Mt. San Jacinto painting– Guardian of the Desert from 1927–came to Rebecca’s inbox. The mountain is practically a school unto itself, as so many artists painted it. In the future we’ll be posting a round-up of great Mt. San Jacinto paintings–vintage or contemporary. If you have favorites, please send them to: annjapenga@gmail.com


Duncan Harkleroad’s Desert Wildlife

The Historical Society of Palm Desert features a new display (Fall, 2016) of desert wildlife photography by a true desert rat, Duncan Harkleroad. Duncan grew up exploring the mountains with his dad and later covered hundreds of miles of trails from his mountain top home above Anza.duncan-hackleroad Some of his images of reclusive desert animals are done with remote cameras. He and his wife Mary invite the animals to their yard with a watering station. See what they’ve found in the exhibit Wildlife of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. The Museum is open Friday-Monday, check the website for hours.


An Orange October for Eric Merrell and Erin Hanson

One of the things Eric Merrell has been thinking about is oranges. “I’ve been doing some still life pieces with oranges, and started noticing oranges popping up in desert material I was reading,” he says. “The original Death Valley party in ‘49 involved 4 oranges, Saint-Exupery had 2 in the Sahara, and early realtors in Joshua Tree apparently stuck oranges all over a few local yuccas for photos to help encourage buyers back east to buy.”

Eric’s Agave and Oranges will be on display at the Millard Sheets Art Center in Pomona in November, 2016.

Eric Merrell, Agave and Oranges

Eric Merrell, Agave and Oranges

In a stroke of synchronicity, another reflective artist has picked up the orange theme. Erin Hanson celebrates the color orange in the Orange Show through October 28, 2016 at the Erin Hanson Gallery in Los Angeles. The exhibit features everything “from orange rock desertscapes to orange wildflowers to sherbet orange sunsets.”


Erin Hanson, The Orange Show. Photo by Jessica Sterling

Erin Hanson, The Orange Show. Photo courtesy of the Erin Hanson Gallery.

Diane Best Goes Arctic

Many writers have noted the similarity between the Southwest deserts and the arctic region. Barry Lopez, for instance, said the Arctic has “the classic lines of a desert landscape: spare, balanced, extended, and quiet.” Now one of the desert’s finest interpreters, Joshua Tree artist Diane Best, explores that link.

When Ice Burns–an exhibit of Diane’s drawings, photographs and moving images–looks at the “wild huge emptiness” in these extreme environments. The opening is October 15,  2016, from 4 to 10 pm at Taylor Junction in Joshua Tree.



Hwy 62 Art Tours

And if you are in Joshua Tree, don’t forget the Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours the weekends of October 15-16 and 22-23rd, 2016. Pick up a program and wind down obscure dirt roads to the hidden haunts of desert artists.





4 comments for “Swinnerton Stash, Eric Merrell, Hwy 62 Art Tours, Mary Weatherford on Agnes Pelton and More

  1. WOW! Another wonderful issue of California Desert Art.
    Thank you dear Ann for educating and informing us about the many
    different expressions of desert art. It is always a joy to see.

  2. Ann, Thank you for a really jam packed issue this week, with lots of links to follow through.
    Also than you very much for the rt Tours plug, I am studio #50 out in Landers, 1st weekend, a bit of a drive but worth it, I assure you!

  3. wow, dear ann, a plethora of good stuff for mind body and soul! mary weatherford on agnes pelton at marfa, very cool and the painting(s) of patricia sablak-korzec are outstanding! thank you for your art map where no one else goes.

Leave a Reply

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