Culture Vulturing in the Gateway Cities to Joshua Tree National Park
The enchanting landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park have long been a source of inspiration for artists seeking to capture the beauty of the Mojave Desert.
Nestled in the high desert of Southern California, this arid wonderland has become a haven for creators of all kinds, and every October, the Highway 62 Open Studios Art Tours offer a unique opportunity to delve into the thriving artistic community that calls this region home.
This October was the third time I took my Mazda on a struggle through the desert's unmarked roads to be a "culture vulture" along the Highway 62 open studios trail; and the third year I promised myself I would not buy anything... I broke my promise!
Now "culture vulturing" is a blood sport for us Ageless Travelers bringing us to unique parts of the world to see a house of ice melt in the Arctic, hear music on a mountaintop in Italy, or watch festivals in Uzbekistan or in Bhutan.
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The Joshua Tree National Park area, an otherworldly array of rock formations, iconic Joshua Trees, and cholla cacti, is an irresistible muse for artists. The Highway 62 Open Studios Art Tours perfectly combine the artistic spirit with the region's breathtaking natural beauty.
As you travel along Highway 62, you'll find studios and galleries peppered throughout the Gateway Cities, like Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, and Yucca Valley.
With over 100 participating artists, you'll encounter various artistic mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, ceramics, and more. Many sculptures have been installed on the artist's desert land, as fascinating as any outdoor museum.
One of the most captivating aspects of this event is the chance to meet the artists personally in their homes and studios.
These interactions offer a deeper appreciation for their art and a personal connection with the artists who call this desert oasis home.
It was no easy task to choose which studios to visit. Although the terrain can be rugged, the directory thoughtfully flags the not GPS-friendly studios. But go anyway. You are on an art exploration adventure. (Directories are available about a month before the event at www.mbcac.org, and printed catalogs, with maps at the Palm Springs Art Center, Palm Canyon Drive.)
The artists I visited were all inspiring, passionate, and generous in talking about their art.
Delos Van Earl--Delos is an artist I strive to collect. He is a sculptor, most often using metals and sometimes wood. His work is shown in significant public spaces and can be monumental in size.
Esther Shaw--If you're unfamiliar with plein-air painting, this is the place to discover how the desert inspires artists. (The French term plein air means out of doors and refers to painting entire finished pictures out of doors.)
Sue's Illumination Creations--Sue's Luminary is known for mesmerizing stained-glass creations. Her works are useful: a sun catcher, a lampshade, or a window panel captivate the eye and the heart.
Zach Fleming-Boyles--Zach's paintings feature cacti as objets d'art. I was fascinated by his Mondrian painting fronted by a cactus. He is creating a series of cacti with astrological formations inspired by his commissioned work at the Libra festival in Joshua tree.
Walker Metterling--When I arrived at Walker's studio, he was preparing masks on a deadline for a show the next day. He is the publisher of Crumple, reminding me a great deal of the master cartoonist Crumb. Walker was initially inspired by masks while cataloging them at a Rhode Island Museum.
Snake Jagger -Visiting Snake's studio is an adventure. Snake has created a walking path to understand his work and its relationship to the desert. He explained to me that one of his characteristics is his neatness. This is my first time seeing that trait translated into fine art.
Mike McLain--I appreciate textile art and have never seen it combined with kinetic art, paint, and mixed media. If you are familiar with the famous Israeli artist Agam and wonder what kinetic art might look like expressed in fabric, you will be impressed by Mike's work.
Alan Powell- Alan's work reminded me of Kandinsky. Alann has a remarkable medical history of epilepsy corrected by breakthrough surgeries. His work shows his resilience and acceptance. In his own words, his shapes become texts to be read, deciphered, and remembered, leading to open doorways and new concepts.
Dvora Silberman--Dvora transforms found materials, such as desert stones and bones, into stunning pieces of wearable art. Her jewelry is a fusion of nature and adornment, allowing those who wear her creations to carry a piece of Joshua Tree's spirit.
Gubby Beck-A metal artist with a twist. Her work is whimsical, delicate, and entertaining.