Artists in the desert commonly use found materials in their work. Whether it’s weathered wood, rusting metal, glass shards, broken tools, bent nails, or gnarly roots — it’s all fair game — and these objects are scattered throughout the sun scorched land waiting to be found.
The aesthetic of used and discarded items in the sand appeal to me as well, although I usually scour thrift stores and rummage sales. The appeal of such items isn’t for everyone. This attraction requires a certain appreciation or vision. Not for folks with an affinity for the shiny and new but for those preferring the cracked, decaying patina, and marks left from age, exposure to the elements, and time. Turning refuse into something valued, appreciated, even loved, sparks their motivation to create. This might explain one of the reasons I am pulled to the desert.
In late November 2021 I had the privilege of spending time at Desert Dairy art residency in 29 Palms, in the Mojave desert just a few minutes to the north entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. One friend inquired “why would you go to 29 Palms… there’s nothing there”, to which I replied “exactly”. I was not disappointed! From my dwelling I observed the sunrise and sunset and the kaleidoscope of ever changing colors, two healthy coyotes preparing to hunt, star-filled skies and miles of sand and desert brush. What I did not see out my window was urban sprawl, or any other evidence of human life… and this “nothing there” provided time to reflect which for any creative person is “everything one needs”!
I arrived without a plan, with many supplies in tow, hopeful the “place” would guide me. The quiet provided space to slow down. I completed an essay, and an embellished garment. As an ode to the Desert Dairy’s original homestead — my garment is a vintage tunic adorned with embroidery, appliqué, and a Mary Oliver poem. I also scavenged and gathered bundles of found objects for rust dying, made a bunch of block printing stamps, documented the area for a book, did historical research on the original homesteaders who farmed the land and hiked. The residency was a great information gathering mission for my waiting upcycled clothing project which will require months to accomplish. I returned home feeling an enormous sense of accomplishment. That’s what’s “there” in 29 Palms. It’s a poke for my creative muse.