“Homestead is where the art is.”

May 23, 2012

Homesteads on KCET ArtBound

Filed under: Culture, History, Press — magicgroove @ 4:51 am

The homesteads of Wonder Valley are featured in this week’s edition of KCET’s ArtBound, a vigorous new county-by-county art and culture web program created by local contributors and supported by community input.

Kim Stringfellow’s essay received enough popular favor to be chosen for production into an accompanying web video.  The video features lots of Wonder Valley’s favorite crumbling cabins, as well as interviews with Kim, local historian Pat Rimmington, and myself.

In the essay Kim summarizes some of the observations from her book Jackrabbit Homestead: Tracing the Small Tract Act in the Southern California Landscape, 1938-2008:

Although some cabins have been passed down from the original jackrabbit homesteaders to family members for recreation and other purposes, today the majority of the area’s jackrabbit homesteads have fallen beyond repair, lending a ghostly and feral presence to the landscape. Others have found new function as primary, full-time residences with modifications, often referred to as “biltmores” by area residents. A small, but growing community of artists and musicians fleeing rising housing prices and general urban ills of the Los Angeles metropolitan area are reclaiming and re-envisioning the structures as artist studios or as creative retreats. Inventive enclaves forming within this geographically defined area are inspired by the Morongo Basin’s spacious desert backdrop, its perceived tranquility, and a desire to form a sense of community within a rural environment. Many have migrated to the region with aspirations uncannily akin to the original homesteaders and share similar outlooks or values with them.

May 19, 2011

Wonder Valley in Japanese

Filed under: Art, Culture, Press — magicgroove @ 2:11 am

A fun video from Japan on Joshua Tree as art oasis in the desert.  Features lots of Wonder Valley, including The Palms, the Sibleys, WV artist Thom Merrick, Jeff Hafler and the Beauty Bubble and Museum, and beaucoup creosotes blowin’ in the wind.  Also, Eames Demetrios at his wild Krblin Jihn Kabin in JT, expounding on the the wonders of deterioration.  Noah Purifoy and the 29 Palms Creative Center are included, as well.

The viewpoint is a little unclear to me as the narration is in Japanese a language I don’t know, but the locals, and the beauty of our crazy desert, speak for themselves.

December 2, 2010

Homesteads on KPBS

Filed under: Art, Press — magicgroove @ 5:59 am

Angela Carone interviews artists Kim Stringfellow and Claire Zitzow in the 30-minute audio program “Desert Jackrabbit Homesteads Inspire Artists.”  

While driving through the California desert, you may come across derelict shacks spotting the landscape. These homesteads, called jackrabbits, were built by people laying claim to plots of desert land in response to the Small Tract Act of 1938. Our guests, both artists, have explored the jackrabbits in their work, through photographs, audio tours, sculpture and installation.

Kim’s work has been featured on this blog many times; learn more about her project at jackrabbithomestead.com.  Claire Zitzow’s solo exhibition “Jackrabbits and the Crow: On Dwelling and Passing” is on view through Dec. 10 at the Andrews Gallery in San Diego.

Above is a photo of Zitzow’s “desert-based installation and jackrabbit homestead built by artist Claire Zitzow.  The walls and sides are composed of paper, so the wind and elements slowly deteriorated the structure over time, not unlike the real jackrabbits it is based on.”

October 13, 2010


Filed under: Culture, History, Press — magicgroove @ 2:14 am

This summer’s Basin Wide Spirit profiled the redoubtable Mary Quamme, the angel of Wonder Valley Thrift.  The thrift shop fills a classic cabin on Godwin near the Highway, and according to the article the cabin’s use is kindly donated by the LaCroix family of Torrance.  

Anyone who has shopped there knows Mary and appreciates her unflagging and unflappable presence.  Rain or shine, freeze or bake, Mary is there, comforted by all the technological relief Wonder Valley can muster – in other words, she must really suffer to bring us these bargains!  The shop is famously open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 9 to noon all year round, including the doggiest days of summer, when that tiny building stuffed to the rafters with “stuff” can reeeally roast.

Somehow Mary keeps things pleasantly organized, so the sheer volume of merchandise does not cause overwhelming paralysis or, heaven forbid, paralyzing accidents.  And the goods are in the best tradition of serendipity, treasures and trash tumbled together and may your curiousity profit with sorting them out.   How often have I admired a Valley resident’s latest acquisition, be it decor, apparel, or something uncategorizable, and received the proud response, “Wonder Valley Thrift!”   By which they mean not only should you notice their taste, but also that they paid dirt for it!   The prices at WV Thrift cannot be beat.

The Thrift is a production of the Wonder Valley Hiking Club, which has been around for ages but gave up the hiking long ago.  The Club, and the Thrift, are entirely dedicated to supporting the WV fire department.  Your donations of goods, time, or cash are always welcome!

You can view the profile of Mary and the Thrift here (PDF; go to p. 5).

Also in that edition of the Spirit is an article on the Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness Area, another secret treasure of Wonder Valley; see p. 11 at the same link above.

September 24, 2010

Starry Starry Wonder

Filed under: Art, Culture, Literary, Press — magicgroove @ 3:36 am

The humble homestead cabins have found their way into this year’s Annual Desert Writers Issue of The Sun Runner.   Included is an uncharacteristically sober verse and drawing by recent Morongo Basin transplant Rik Livingston, as well as the above charming pastel and water color “Starry Starry Wonder” by Lisa Maher.  We’ve written about Lisa and her 3rd-generation homestead before.  You can read about her latest trip to Wonder, which inspired this painting, on her blog.

There’s lots of good desert writing in this issue, so be sure to pick up a copy before they run out.  Find out where at thesunrunner.com.

May 21, 2010

Beauty Bubble steps out

Filed under: Culture, Press — magicgroove @ 2:18 am

Wonder Valley’s own Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum has been in the news.   Here’s how Jeff Hafler’s creation is described in an April 21 travel piece on Joshua Tree boutique hotels in the New York Times on-line:

Then there’s the Beauty Bubble: an unclassifiable one-chair salon tucked inside a replica 1930s homestead cabin that Hafler has turned into a showcase for vintage beauty-shop bric-a-brac. Bubbles were popular 1960s hairdos, and as Hafler notes, “The higher the hair, the closer to God.” Of the more than 2,000 objects that the self-described “hairstorian” (it’s California, go with it) started collecting back in his beauty school days, his most cherished is a 1940 Duart Perm Machine that belonged to Veronica Lake’s hairstylist.

Last month part of the Beauty Museum collection traveled to San Francisco for the exhibition Beauty Shop Culture at the venerable SOMArts Cultural Center:

Award-winning photographer, writer and cultural critic Candacy A. Taylor, presents Beauty Shop Culture, an exhibition that explores the beauty shop as a community-based institution and addresses issues of gender, race, class and identity.  For centuries hair salons have functioned as makeshift communities where people gather to discuss everything from intimate family sagas, food, and pop culture, to finances, politics, philosophy and health.  For the exhibition Beauty Shop Culture, Taylor employs photographic documentation, installation and sculpture to explore the contemporary manifestations of beauty shops as a form of community space, and to highlight traditions and history of hair, hair care products, potions and pomades from various cultures throughout the world beginning in the sixteenth century.

Community-based institution, indeed.   Who needs a newspaper when you got the Beauty Bubble?  😉

Image of the Beauty Museum above from the Beauty Bubble/Moon Way Lodge website.

February 2, 2010

The history of the Poste Homestead

Filed under: Culture, History, Press — magicgroove @ 12:15 am

The 29 Palms Historical Society has been an important resource and support in the uncovering of the history of the homestead cabins over the last few years.   In this week’s Desert Trail, the Society publishes an informative Soapbox establishing the story of the Poste Homestead off Amboy and Chadwick in Wonder Valley and clearing up some misinformation that’s been going around.  The adobe ruins and grove of athel trees amid the sand dunes help mark a location that’s been active in local history since the late 1800’s, when it was a water stop for mining freighters.  The Poste Homestead predates the Small-Tract movement, and the article takes a look at the meaning of “homestead”:

There is also the question of the meaning of “homestead.” Random House dictionary defines “homestead” as “a dwelling with its land and buildings.” It is our understanding this is the context used when referencing the place as the “Poste Homestead.” The Homestead Act was a special act of Congress (1862) that made public land available to settlers. In the Mojave Desert the original homestead claims were generally 160 acres, but after the Small Tract Act was passed in 1938, one could file on a five-acre parcel. We should also mention that if a person filed on a homestead but did not prove up, there may or may not be any record in the Government Land Entry files. There will definitely not be a record in the online data base; the data base only contains records of people whose homestead was patented. Patented in this context means the individual satisfied all the requirements of the pertinent act and was issued a Patent (deed) to the property by the federal government.

If you haven’t visited the Museum or joined the 29 Palms Historical Society, you should!   They continue to reach out to include the humble history of the Small-Tract homesteads. (Their latest quarterly newsletter [Winter 2009] includes a version of the talk I gave on this topic at the Museum last March!)  These hard-working volunteers and their expert labors continue to contribute in critical ways to our understanding of our communities, our history, our culture, and the land that has shaped us.

August 4, 2009

“Don’t Fence Me In”

Filed under: Press — magicgroove @ 11:56 pm


“Don’t Fence Me In:  Artists embrace harsh desert in creating their own wide open gallery spaces” is the title of a feature on the homestead cabins appearing in the Home section of the Saturday, August 1, 2009 edition of  The Desert Sun:

The homesteads, the result of the Small Tract Act of 1938, are a part of desert history that reminds us of the pioneering spirit of the post-World War II years when Americans yearned for the open spaces and freedoms of the Old West.

And the government yearned to populate the vast stretches of open land.

The article quotes Kim Stringfellow, the artist behind the “Jackrabbit Homesteads” project:

“I got interested in the hinterland fringe communities a long time ago,” she said by phone from Los Angeles. “They are so close to major cities, but they’re worlds apart from civilization.”

Also quoted is yours truly as an example of someone living on a homestead:

Today, some of the surviving homestead cabins are inhabited by artists like Chris Carraher, who see the openness of the high desert not as desolation, but as a place that encourages self-sufficiency and creativity.

“People here allow themselves to exercise their own unique creativity,” said Carraher. “On one level, they live a life of reduced resources, but that also allows them to come up with inventive solutions.”

There is a photo gallery attached to the Web version of the article with dozens of images, including photos of derelict cabins by Kim and more than you ever wanted to see of my own somewhat less derelict place.   (Image above of my studio cabin by Crystal Chatham for The Desert Sun.)

Thanks to writer Judith Salkin and photographer Crystal Chatham for their interest in our desert!

July 28, 2009

Coming up on August 1

Filed under: Press — magicgroove @ 8:11 am

Palm Springs daily The Desert Sun will have a feature on the homestead cabins in the Home section on Saturday, August 1.  Be sure to get you a copy!  🙂

May 29, 2009

Ratany Issue 2 – get it now!

Filed under: Culture, Literary, Press — magicgroove @ 4:19 am

 The Wonder?Valley Ratany Issue 2 is out, and Suzanne Ross tells me you can find it at the 29 Palms Library, the Creative Center, 29 Palms Gallery, the Inn, Wonder Garden,  and various Joshua Tree establishments.  And The Palms, of course.  It’s a jumbo edition at 8, count ’em 8 pages, and, I must say, I’m impressed.   

This issue asks, “What’s the strangest thing that happened to you in Wonder Valley?”  Personally, I didn’t know how to answer that question.  Everything in Wonder Valley seems, well, normal to me, to be honest.   But I must admit, the crack Ratany team came up with a couple of very interesting stories!

As well, there are some REALLY nice poems, including Oh, Lonesome Cabin In The Desert by Russ Kohn and some thoughtful verses from Dudley the Corgi Poet.  And, to whet your appetite, without permission I will reproduce the following unattributed anthem:

Wonder Valley Anthem

Wonder Valley we love you
Love your hills of dry blue hue
Wells of water, floods that flash
Rusty cars and trailer trash
Empty cabins dot the plain
Half the neighbors are insane
Lizards, bugs sing our refrain
Hang around & wait for rain.

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