Outsiders in the desert

Detail from Marta Becket Armagosa Opera House Mural

The stark beauty of the Mojave Desert is also a magnet for creatives that work outside the mainstream. Think of ballerina Marta Becket who stumbled upon an abandoned theater in Death Valley and took that on as her life mission.  The Amargosa Opera House saw performances by Marta every week for four decades, and in her spare time, she embellished the inside of the opera house with fantastical murals of an audience painted in naive style.

Noah Purifoy image-
Noah Purifoy’s Desert Art Museum

Or consider Noah Purifoy‘s outdoor Desert Art Museum in Joshua Tree, California. Purifoy lived for the last fifteen years of his life creating ten-acres full of large-scale sculpture on the desert floor. Constructed entirely from discarded junk, the Desert Art Museum helps visitors appreciate the landscape, and think about environment in California.

Rosamond blue rocks 2
Rosamond Rocks

As a native of the high desert north of Los Angeles, I have an eternal fascination with artists that are attracted to the stark landscape and utilize existing landscapes or built structures to create their art. On a recent walk through the Rosamond desert, just outside of a subdivision, I was thrilled to see an art installation of painted boulders, carefully arranged and painted red, white and blue.  The rocks are placed in lines that lead outward into the desert – perhaps pointing out a way out from the subdivision.

Will report back on the artist’s progress on my next visit.

Here is an article that discusses outsider art published in Frieze Magazine

Rosamond blue rocks

Travels and Public Art

Recent travels took me through the Denver Airport to transfer to another flight. The first flight was delayed and feeling stressed that I would not make the connection, I was annoyed to find that I had to board a train to transfer to the next terminal. The train left and entered a tunnel where my grumpy outlook was immediately changed to delight.  Inside the tunnel were tiny shiny propellers mounted on the walls that twirled as the train moved through the tunnel.  The electric blue lighting inside the train reflected onto the propellers, adding color to a fantastic public art installation.

Kinetic Light Curtain – photo courtesy Denver Airport

The “Kinetic Air Light Curtain” was designed by husband and wife team, Antonette Rosato and William Maxwell in 1995.  Although both artists have died in the past decade, their artwork is still fresh and continues to engage passengers. Both artists lived and worked in Denver and their design has meaning to the place:  there are 5,280 propellers in the tunnel, which signifies the altitude of Denver, known as the ‘mile high city.’

Frequently we forget to savor the moment in time when we are amazed, delighted, intrigued or mystified by art.  After I got on my connecting plane, I kept seeing those reflecting propellers around me on the runway, and thought of the power that artists have to elevate the mundane through art.