Friday, October 30, 2009

Hwy. 62 Art Tours

We’re in the middle of the most exciting time of the year in the hi-desert—the Open Studio Art Tours! The website for the tours is here. This event is held on the last two weekends in October, with around 100 artists participating. Last weekend we visited a dozen different studios. We bought a few things that I’ve photographed for this post. Click on the artists’ names for links to their websites or additional work.

This first piece is a giclee by Tina Bluefield titled “Pinto Mountains and Wash.” Tina’s studio is way out in Landers and has that peaceful, in-the-middle-of-nowhere feeling. She does incredible abstracts as well as desert scenes. BTW: the Pinto Mountains are at the far eastern end of Joshua Tree National Park.

“The Orange Bird” is a monotype by Karine Swenson. This year Karine turned her entire house into a gallery and displayed the work of three other artists as well as her own. She was our neighbor when we lived down in Joshua Tree. Like Tina Bluefield, Karine does lots of abstract work. She’s prolific—check out her website and blog!

The third piece is “Tropical Isle,” a digital creation by one of our current neighbors, Ray Yeager. Ray has a sometimes wacky, sometimes wicked sense of humor which comes through in many of his altered photographs (you’ll see one of them if you click on his name)—that’s not so much the case with this piece, but we liked its color, shapes, and feel. BTW Ray is an astronomer and weather expert as well as an artist.

The last photo shows a giant kinetic sculpture by Steve Rieman, an iconic hi-desert artist whose commissioned pieces can be found all over California. The Riemans’ compound in Landers has to be one of the ultimate expressions of an artist’s life in the desert—it’s a not-to-be-missed stop on the tour. The photo below shows the same sculpture moving in the wind.

So for all of you who’ve been meaning to visit us…mark your 2010 calendars for the last two weekends of October and come for the Open Studio Tours! (Not that you have to wait that long...)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Day in the Life of...Captain Watty Prettypaws

Hi everybody! Captain Watty Prettypaws here. This is my favorite spot, where I sit and watch the bunnies and the birdies outside the window. Even though I'm not allowed to go outside, I know them, and they know me.

This is my ficus tree. Sometimes I take a flying leap and grab the trunk. But it happens too quick to catch on film.

This is my favorite chair, and my favorite box with one of my many mice inside.

Who says cats can't read? When the meow shows on the bottom of my dish, I meow and get more food, just like that.

I like to hang out up here after dinner, while my mom and dad are watching something on Netflix. I'm not usually into TV myself.

Here's something I really love. When my folks inflate the air mattress on the sofa bed, I ride it all the way up--it's the coolest thing to feel the mattress expanding underneath me.

Once in a while I write poems, so I'll leave you with one here. Til next time--Captain Watty

Oh, once I was a city cat, as fine as I could be,
But now I am a country cat, and that's the life for me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dance at the Noah Purifoy Site

Last weekend we got to see a group of dancers from Los Angeles filming a video at the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Art Museum in Joshua Tree. This particular segment was shot at the installation called the Graveyard.

Purifoy was an assemblage artist whose creations live on at his 7.5-acre art ranch. He was a co-founder of the Watts Towers Art Center in the 1960s and a founding member of the California Arts Council in the 1970s—but this property in Joshua Tree is where he really let himself go. To learn more about his life, click here.

There’s nothing quite like wandering around this place. You get the feeling that you’ll never see it all. It’s weird, wacky, and inspiring. Purifoy himself said, “I hope my work provides inspiration for a person to do today what they couldn’t do yesterday, no matter what it is.”

BTW: The last two photos are part of an installation called The White House--the two hanging slabs are inscribed with the Declaration of Independence.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Instead of sleeping in until 8 a.m., I got up early and joined our friends Phyllis and Richard on a Saturday morning bird walk. These walks take place Wednesday and Saturday mornings down in Morongo, at Covington Park and the adjoining Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

This was my first birding expedition, and it won’t be my last! Altogether we saw 47 different species. There’s a migration under way right now, so that number includes more variety than normal.

I was particularly taken by the bright-colored vermilion flycatcher. My other personal favorites included the rock wren, which likes to hop around on rocks; the Western bluebird, whose silhouette you can see in the partly dead tree; and the red-breasted sapsucker (click on the names of the birds to see more photos).

The natural habitat is interesting as well. The shrub with the yellow blooms is called alkali golden bush. The last photo shows a close-up of virgin bower, a vine that grows downward from the trees and has seeds reminiscent of a dandelion (click on the photo for a detailed view).

A big plus on these walks is the presence of serious birders who can instantly recognize most of the species. The walks take place year round and are a great excuse to spend a few uplifting hours in the great outdoors.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Fall arrived overnight this past week with a 20-degree temperature drop. We’re going to miss the summer heat!

Bill is showing this new photo tomorrow at the Twentynine Palms Art Gallery; it’s called “Fallen Angel.” Here are three interpretations: The Joshua tree itself can be regarded as a fallen angel. Bill sees the dark spot at the upper center as the open mouth of an angel falling. I see the same spot as the eye of a Cyrano de Bergerac figure, with the nose directly to the left. What do you see?

Recently Enid Osborn invited me to take part in a poetry reading with the theme of crows and ravens. That led me to do some research about ravens in the Mojave Desert—I put most of what I learned into the poem below.

The line about looking for “coyotes to torment” came from an incident at our house a couple of weeks ago. We watched a group of ravens swoop and dive at the crest of a hill; a coyote came over to investigate, almost reluctantly, like he’d been fooled by them before. He didn’t see anything, so he left and sat down under a juniper tree. The birds came back and tried again, but he wouldn’t have any part of it.

A Parable

The ravens saw garbage
and knew that it was good.
They saw roadkill—even better.
They became fruitful and multiplied,
an explosion made possible
by humans, who struck back
with bullets and poison. No luck.
Like capitalists run amok,
ravens show up uninvited,
squawking and diving,
looking for coyotes to torment
and tortoises for dessert.
Too much like us for comfort,
they kiss, commit adultery, even speak.
One learned to say, Bad Edgar. Nevermore.
Another mimicked a detonation team—
Three, two, one, Kaboom!
The only way to get rid of ravens
would be to blow up the world.
They’re chained to us, thriving
on our worst—dark reminders
of the sprawl of our desires.

Of course I learned many other things about ravens, too--that they are important figures in world mythology, often trickster figures, and sometimes important guides. Apparently the Norse god Odin had two ravens to advise him--one named Thought and the other named Memory. (Thanks to Phyllis Schwartz for loaning me The Bedside Book of Birds by Graeme Gibson--a feast of sumptuous illustrations and bird lore!)

I have respect for ravens. When I see and hear them in the desert, they appear to be creatures of great power and intelligence.