Val Samuelson House, Ziemienski’s Sunset, Mystery Artist and More

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The Cathedral City Cove continues to assert its place in desert art history. First there was the recognition of the Agnes Pelton home (thanks to Peter Palladino and Simeon Den) and now a restoration-minded couple has purchased the former Val Samuelson home. Samuelson was a modernist artist who also was art director of the stylish Villager Magazine, and staff artist at the Palm Springs Museum.  He lived in the Cove for 37 years before his death in 2000.

Jeff Palmer and Joe Pascale with a Val Samuelson painting in front of Val's house. The photo by Peter Palladino is part of his portrait series on Cove dwellers.

Jeff Palmer and Joe Pascale with a Val Samuelson painting in front of Val’s house. The photo by Peter Palladino is part of his portrait series on Cove dwellers.

The new owner, Jeff Palmer, grew up across the street from Samuelson. His mother, Pearl Palmer, kept up a playful over-the fence flirtation with the artist and his dad, John, traded plumbing work for a painting. Even young Jeff bought a painting on the installment plan—working in a juice store to pay it off.

The house was in run-down condition when Palmer and his partner, Joe Pascale, purchased it. While most buyers would have leveled the small bungalow and plopped a cookie cutter modern on the lot, Palmer and Pascale are keeping the old-Cove feel. They are dedicated to keeping the home relatively as it was when Val lived and painted there—right down to preserving Samuelson’s smoke trees and the backyard paths he walked on. The big painting that belonged to Jeff’s parents will return home.

The City has already designated Agnes Pelton’s street Agnes Pelton Way and is considering a second: Val Samuelson Way. Eventually there could be a plethora of artist-named “Ways” as there are many more early art connections to be uncovered in the Cove.

More on Val Samuelson:

 Rancho Mirage Artists Home Tour

Mandy Main, Luminous Field V

Mandy Main, Luminous Field V

On Saturday April 12, 2014, from 12 to 4 pm, you’re invited to visit the homes and studios of four Rancho Mirage artists, including Mandy Main–painter of Western landscapes inspired by the 19th Century luminists–and Elaine Mathews, painter of enduring desertscapes and  leader of the popular paint-outs for the Desert Art Center. Also on the itinerary: painter and printmaker Mia Luzajic and sculptor and painter Mario Pikus. For info on the free event call (760) 324-4511.

Press release:

The  Sunset in Coachella Valley Wins California Art Club Award

Dennis Ziemienski’s  The Sunset in Coachella Valley won the Jessie Arms Bottke Award at the California Art Club’s 103rd Gold Medal Juried Exhibition at The Autry.

Dennis Ziemienski, Sunset in Coachella Valley

Dennis Ziemienski, The Sunset in Coachella Valley

Glen Ellen artist Ziemienski says he often paints in the desert, using the images in his on-site works and sketches, as well as larger studio pieces. The internationally known illustrator and designer sent along a gratifying view of Tahquitz Canyon, Midday at the Oasis, to show his devotion to our local landscape.

Dennis Ziemienski, Midday at the Oasis

Dennis Ziemienski, Midday at the Oasis

The CAC exhibit is on view though April 20th at the Autry National Center

A French Cartoonist Meets the Smoketree

Dan Rohlfing at Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery reports on another caper involving a desert artist. (You might recall his moonlight hunt for the John Hilton home in 29 Palms, with Kathi Hilton as expedition guide.) Leave it to Dan to make the unlikely leap from Jimmy Swinnerton to a French cartoonist Dominique Bertail. Via Swinny, Bertail gets to know the desert: “Observe the smoke trees, these little blue-gray trees backed by red mountains,” he writes. “It is similar to two characters waiting at the water’s edge. It’s as if we’re invited to get to know each of these bushes, to spend some time in the desert with them.” Read more in the always-entertaining Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery newsletter:

Robert Temple Ayres: “Bonanza” Artist in Banning

The burning map that opened each episode of the TV show Bonanza was created by an artist who lived in Cherry Valley.

Robert Temple Ayres and his Bonanza map. Photo by Tessie Borden/Autry National Center.

Robert Temple Ayres and his Bonanza map. Photo by Tessie Borden/Autry National Center.

Robert Temple Ayres worked in advertising and book illustration, followed by 25 years as an illustrator with movie studios including MGM and Disney. After retirement he painted San Diego historical landmarks (in the manner of our own Ron Backer), religious scenes and landscapes, with a special focus on the Superstition Mountains. He died in Cherry Valley in February, 2012. His work is on display through June 6th at the Banning Art Gallery, operated by the Banning Cultural Alliance.

Ayres’ kindred spirit, Ron Backer (though the two never met, as far as I know), shows his evolving series on Coachella Valley history at the Rancho Mirage Library through April 30th, 2014.

 Borrego Summer Show and Sale

The Borrego Art Institute has a summer show and sale coming up May 1st through October 15. Artists and collectors who would like to sell their art (40% goes to the Institute) may submit items. This is a good opportunity to show your vintage and contemporary desert paintings to the European tourists (and other fans of hot weather) mobbing Borrego in the summer. For information, e-mail director Kay Levie at

 Desert Mystery Artist of the Month: Lucille Bertrand

A reader named Darrell writes: About 5 years ago we were cleaning out our grandfather’s bachelor pad in Palm Springs and found a small desert landscape by Lucille Bertrand about 10″x6″ on artist board….pleasant little desert landscape titled “Smoke Trees in La Quinta”. I’ve been collecting over the past 10-12 years other plein-air desert scenes and will keep this one, found in a drawer unframed. On the back it says Atelier Panels with the title and the artist’s name and dated 10-06-1954. I can’t find much info on the artist.

 There is a French artist Lucile Bertrand who also spells her name Lucille…maybe she was in P.S. on vacation in 1954? Couldn’t find a bio for the French Lucile/Lucille…so I’m not sure if her age makes it feasible.Lucille Bertrand

Thanks for the clues, Darrell. If anyone knows more about the mysterious painting found in his grandfather’s bachelor pad, please get in touch.




4 comments for “Val Samuelson House, Ziemienski’s Sunset, Mystery Artist and More

  1. Thanks Ann for the update on my former neighbor, Val S. I am pleased that Jeff and Joe have purchased the property and will preserve the charming/vintage home that Val and Marion live in for so many years.

  2. Thanks Janey…with your help (and the CC Historical Society) I know we’ll discover more inspiring artists who lived in Cathedral City and the Cove.

  3. Thank you, Ann, for your efforts. Great article. You weave the past and present desert art scene so beautifully timeless. As painters it makes our efforts feel that much more worthwhile.

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