Toenjes on the Mojave, Eytel’s Canteen, Water Tank Art and More

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James Toenjes, OX Ranch bunkhouse with windmill

James Toenjes, OX Ranch bunkhouse with windmill

Palm Springs artist and archaeologist James Toenjes is acting as caretaker and resident painter at the historic OX Ranch in Lanfair Valley, as he works on archaeology jobs in the Mojave National Preserve. His adventure has already yielded fine paintings of the little-visited and historic Preserve. For a video introduction to Jim’s new digs, and to see his paintings of the bunk house, the New York Mountains and the Piute Mountains from his backdoor, visit:

For more on Jim, see:

You can also see Jim’s work at Terry Master’s Desert Painter Gallery in Palm Springs

 Carl Eytel’s Canteen

In other archaeology-meets-art news, former Palm Springs BLM archaeologist Wanda Raschkow unearthed a desert art treasure in her new position at Death Valley National Park. While living in Palm Springs, Wanda helped researchers pin down the location of Carl Eytel’s cabin above the Tennis Club. So she was familiar with the name “Eytel” when she came upon this sweet example of desert art in the park’s curation facility. Dated 1910, the canteen shows buildings in a desert palm grove. If anyone knows more, please comment below.

Carl Eytel's painted canteen, 1910. Death Valley National Park archives.

Carl Eytel’s painted canteen, 1910. Death Valley National Park catalog # DEVA 4033.

Edward H. Davis Expedition Art

Still on the art-meets-history theme:  Edward H. Davis (1862-1951) was a field collector for the Museum of the American Indian and also an artist who kept extensive sketchbooks and journals of his travels throughout the Southern California deserts and backcountry. The sweep of his work remains to be researched and documented but the San Diego History Center now has on display (August, 2013, through January) a teaser exhibit called Crossing Cultures.

Edward H. Davis sketch, San Diego History Center

Edward H. Davis sketch of a Cahuilla Indian woman, San Diego History Center

The Cornell University Library bio on Davis says: “First and always an artist, his sketchbooks were never far away, and he was a consummate diarist. He added photography to his repertory, and was often observed heading out on horseback with fifty pounds of camera equipment on his back….He traveled thousands of miles using all kinds of conveyances including the wagon, train, truck, automobile, boat, and pack animal. Frequently he walked.”

Exhibition info:

You can spend hours exploring Davis’ extensive archives at Cornell University Library and the San Diego Historical Society:

Water Tank Americana

History and art is colliding out toward Joshua Tree, too, where David Greene has been commissioned to paint historic water tanks. He explained his Desert Americana project in an email:

“Water tanks up here originally were either storage for well water, or for ‘You Haul’ water for the homesteader cabins that don’t have a well on the property. Sometime in the recent past it became part of the fire code that newly built homes in rural areas are required to have a minimum 5000 gal tank for fire suppression, as there are no city waterlines for the fire department to hook up to. (This is all to the best of my knowledge, and has not been “vetted”.)

David Greene, Pioneertown water tank

David Greene, Pioneertown water tank

I was given this particular commission by a gentleman in Pioneertown who needed some repairs to an existing mural inside his home. Upon completion of the repairs he asked me to bid on painting the tank. This project was especially fun for me because I’ve wanted to do just this sort of thing since I first bid to do a forest scene on a garage when I was in high school.

Maybe two weeks after the PiTown bid was accepted, Laurel at the Glass Outhouse Art Gallery in Wonder Valley asked me to bid on painting her water tank, not knowing about the PiTown commission.  She had contacted PepsiCo and received permission to use their image on the tank and was looking for an artist to execute the work. That project is scheduled for next month so as to be ready for the gallery’s September opening.

I’ve also been contacted by the Chaparral Artist group in Joshua Tree to act as technical adviser for their upcoming water tank painting project involving local teens and raising water conservation consciousness.

I can’t even begin to estimate the number of water tanks (and propane tanks) in the area. Practically every residence outside any incorporated area will have at least one, if not more. I have at least two more projects in PiTown that folks want bids on, and if things snowball, this could be a whole new line of work for me.”

We hope this is, indeed, a burgeoning line of work for David and other artists. For more on David Greene see:

Watch for an upcoming video of David and his new Buddha series coming soon on the Highway 62 Art Tours website:

Mystery Painter of the Month: Michael H. Smith

Janet Edmonds wrote with a question about The Old Highway Tax painted in 1970 by Michael H. Smith and purchased at the Desert Southwest Art Gallery in Palm Desert.  Bill Bender, one of the few artists living who knew the Southwest gallery artists, says: “I don’t know and never heard of this Smith feller.” If a reader knows more about this Smith feller, please comment below or contact Janet at More from Janet’s email:

“I have come across a curious little painting entitled The Old Highway Tax. It was, according to a label on the back, purchased at Desert Southwest Art Gallery presumably by my father, a resident of Rancho Mirage until the early 80’s.  It is my guess that Ginger Renner, who was a friend, had something to do with the sale.

My parents were members of Thunderbird CC.  My dad, Harold Ames, was a lover of Western art and had some beautiful things.  I don’t know exactly how he first knew Ginger Renner.  I now live in Arizona, had lived in Chicago, and first met Ginger Renner while living there when she brought a “show” there.  I bought a picture from her then, and have been a customer at Renner’s Trailside galleries many times since.

The painting in question here is a mystery because it doesn’t seem to be a painting my father would have purchased.  I even wonder if someone gave it to him.  It resurfaced last year after having gone missing soon after my dad died.  Now, we wonder again if anyone knows the artist. The “highway tax” in the title refers to the money that the highwaymen outlaws would steal from the stagecoaches.”

Michael H. Smith, The Old Highway Tax.

Michael H. Smith, The Old Highway Tax.







7 comments for “Toenjes on the Mojave, Eytel’s Canteen, Water Tank Art and More

  1. Thank you Ann for the informative articles!
    I always enjoy receiving your e-magazine. It is
    loaded with great stories, photos and links.

  2. I came across a watercolor of Mission San Diego that is signed Carl Eytel. Where could I get it appraised?

  3. Hi Robert, You’re lucky to find that Carl Eytel painting, as they are very rare. For an appraisal, you might try Ron Vander Molen, owner of Vander Molen Fine Art in Pasadena. He is one of the few appraisers I know of with an expertise in desert painters. If anyone knows of others, please pass them on.

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