February 27, 2017

Photo Essay: Into a Desert Dream Circle

Much of the desert already feels like a dream.

Between the sun glares and the reflections... find yourself questioning not only reality, but your own existence.

In Lawrence of Arabia, Major Lawrence explains what attracts him to the desert by saying, "It's clean."

But too many people have discovered the California desert. It isn't quite so clean anymore. And it's hard to find it empty, when so many young girls dress up to go out there in the sand and take photos of themselves.

They seek the image of their own reflection more than the opportunity to reflect on their inner lives or their higher selves.

That's why the newest desert installation by Philip K. Smith, called "The Circle of Land and Sky," strikes me as a bit funny.

Part of the DesertX art biennial that just opened, with installations spanning the entire Palm Springs area...

... these "geometric reflectors" are meant to both unify and divide the two major elements you'll find out there, in this empty patch of Palm Desert.

But what it doesn't take into account is the human element.

Most people who'd trek out into the desert to see an installation like this are actually more interested in seeing themselves reflected back, rather than any earthly or atmospheric elements.

And, in doing so, they learn nothing about themselves, standing out there in the shadows of those 300 poles. They simply ground themselves in a narrow, narcissistic reality. They do not avail themselves of the dreaminess of the desert, or let their minds wander through the emptiness.

And so, they see only what they want to see—not what the desert could actually reveal to them.

Therein lies the truth, I suppose. When you visit this site—which feels like some kind of sacred circle, tilted towards the heavens—you find yourself in one of two positions.

You're either trying to catch a glimpse of yourself in the art, or you're lying down on the loose sand underfoot, trying to see everything but yourself.

Related Posts:
Is It Art, Or Is It the Desert?
Photo Essay: A Day-Glo Desert Detour
Photo Essay: Saving Sculptures from the Scrapyard

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