October 25, 2018

Photo Essay: An Outdoor Desert Crawl of Outsider Art

It's been years since I've attended Artwalk in Downtown LA. It's always felt like too many people... and not enough art.

But last weekend, I went to the Hwy 62 Art Tours in the high desert communities surrounding Joshua Tree for the second time.

And I think I'll keep going back.

This year my first stop was the tile house of Wonder Valley...

...a "mosaic retreat" crafted out of Mexican tile, fused glass, and found objects by ceramicist and sculptor Perry Hoffman.

The two-bedroom house first became an art project in the year 2000 and was expanded in 2011...

...but Hoffman isn't done with it yet.

It's still a work in progress.

Though I would challenge anyone to find a blank space that needs to be covered.

And if he does cover it all, from floor to ceiling, inside and out...

...won't he just build another addition?

My second stop was The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery, which is entering its 10th season of art...

...and yet I'd only just heard about it this year.

The site used to be a pistol range—but when the owner died, his widow turned it into a not-for-profit art space.

At first just a gallery to showcase her own work and the oddball work of her friends who didn't fit in the traditional "desert landscape" category that most other galleries were looking to fill...'s expanded into a full-fledged outdoor art environment...

...with a sculpture garden and solar-lit trails out front... well as a few cautionary tales (like don't get caught nude sunbathing).

This sculpture garden also features found objects galore...

...and that's probably because you can find a lot of stuff out in the desert.

You can get lost in the whimsy and wild.

You can awaken a greater sense of self.

And you can make your life whatever you want it to be.

As if the desert weren't surreal enough on its own, I made my last stop the Dream Wanderer, a roving virtual reality experience that's set up camp in Landers.

I boarded the bus (now parked to stay, at least for a while),  strapped on the VR headset, and was taken away to Lily Dale, New York, a town founded in 1879 for spiritualists...

...where dozens of registered mediums (many who are called "Reverend") reside and offer their services of contacting the other side. Some bend spoons. Others heal with their hands.

But during each two-and-a-half-minute segment of the virtual reality show (replete with vibrating chest plate), I enjoyed my time on the fringe.

I walked through a forest, and I floated on a glass lake.

I wondered whether the dreams I've had are simply memories of things that happened while I was asleep.

I pondered what connects me—the essence of me—to my corporeal form and to this world I currently live in.

But in the end, I hoped that the dead aren't really still among us... and that I won't stick around after I die.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Noah's Art
Is It Art, Or Is It the Desert?
Photo Essay: The High Desert's Crystal Cave

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