“Homestead is where the art is.”

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.

May 15, 2010

Homesteading in Manhatten

Filed under: Art, Events — magicgroove @ 11:14 pm

Desert fan Bernard Leibov is opening his New York microgallery, BoxoFFICE, to Joshua Tree artist Diane Best’s homestead cabins in the show SHACK, “a solo exhibition of large-scale black and white photography. ”

SHACK features images of cabins in the area around Joshua Tree, some occupied, some abandoned, some close to being reclaimed by the earth.

The Mojave Desert was one of the last places in the lower 48 where land was granted free to anyone willing to improve the land. The cabins featured in the photographs were built as a result of one of the last homesteading acts passed, The Small Tract Act of 1938, that granted 5 acre parcels “for such purposes as home, cabin, health and recreational sites”. The Small Tract Act  was also known as the  “Jack Rabbit Act”  as some people considered the desert land “fittin’ only for jack rabbits and tumbleweeds”.

The 5 acre plots were leased for 5 years for a nominal fee ($99. per year), and if a structure was built that was at least 12′ X 16′, the leaseholder could buy the property for $120. an acre. Water and power were not required. Many cabins were carefully built by weekend desert lovers, but many more were flimsily erected by land speculators and were never inhabited.

The artist herself says, “Living in the desert,  surrounded by these reminders of the past – many deserted with their contents intact, slowly blowing apart, decaying, and vandalized – I am fascinated by the question of their owner’s intent and untold stories of arrival, building and departure.”

Diane’s work was part of our Wonder Valley Homestead Cabin Festival together with that of Mary-Austin Klein in the Shack Appreciation Show at Trader Jeff’s.  The image above is Shack 21, (34 x 50 in., archival pigment print on dibond, 2010).  See more of Diane’s images on her website, along with a book available of her cabin photos.  She also has a new video, “SHACKS”, that will be featured in the BoxoFFICE exhibition.  Here’s hoping we get to see it back here at home soon! 

SHACK runs May 22 to July 10, with reception on May 22 from 6 to 8 p.m.  BoxoFFICE is at 421 Hudson Street #701 in New York.   More info at the BoxoFFICE website.   Also find Bernard and BoxOFFICE in an article on microgalleries in the New York Times.

May 6, 2010

Lily Stockman’s homestead paintings at True World

Filed under: Art, Events — magicgroove @ 12:00 am

Lily Stockman’s paintings of abandoned homesteads are featured in the show upcoming at True World Gallery in Joshua Tree.  Per the gallery press release:

The abandoned homesteads which are the subject of this collection of paintings  have become a metaphor for her experience as an outsider in a strange land.  They are also emblems of the mythology of the West, Manifest Destiny, and the strange melding of physical and psychological landscape that happens in the desert. The homesteads are appealing subjects not only for their simple geometric forms, but also because of the stories implied by their vacancy.

Above is She Learned to Love Persimmons, oil on panel, 30 x 30 in.  View this and more of Stockman’s homestead images on her website, where smooth, stripped-down visions find the cabins united with the natural architecture of the desert, sharing a serene opacity.

Sharing the show is Brian Leatart.  Opening reception is Saturday, May 8, 7-10 p.m., with music by Wonder Valley’s own Sibleys.  True World Gallery, 61740 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree.  See True World website for gallery hours.

March 6, 2010

Adventures in Wonderland

Filed under: Art, Events — magicgroove @ 3:19 am

“One side makes you larger, and one side makes you small”…

Long-time Twentynine Palms residents Allen and Mita Barter bring their works of contrasting scale to the Glass Outhouse Gallery with an opening reception on Saturday, March 6, 2010. 

Allen’s large sculptural works will be juxtaposed with Mita’s tiny assemblages-in-a-sardine-can.   “Allen and Mita’s Adventures in Wonderland” should be decidedly Carroll-esque!

Opening reception is Saturday, March 6, from 1-5 p.m.   The show runs March 3-21, open from 1-5 p.m. Tue-Sat.  The Glass Outhouse Gallery is at Thunder Road and Hwy. 62, approximately 5 miles east of 29 Palms.  Look for the sign on the south side of the Highway.

“Dry Immersion 3” brings UC artists to Wonder Valley

Filed under: Architecture, Art, Culture, Events — magicgroove @ 2:57 am

“Dry Immersion 3” comes to Wonder Valley on Saturday, March 6, 2010.  Per the Press-Enterprise:

Artists from seven University of California campuses will gather Saturday amid the creosote and hollowed-out cabins of Wonder Valley east of Twentynine Palms for a desert-inspired art event.

The remote landscape will be host to art installations, musical performances and at least one video work. The public event includes 19 artworks created by 24 artists.

“Dry Immersion 3” is the third part of a project co-organized by UC Riverside’s Sweeney Art Gallery and the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts.

In October, a four-day roving symposium shuttled 66 artists to various areas of the desert to familiarize them with the terrain and culture and encourage them to create desert-oriented works.

Saturday’s event is a result of that exposure.

“I feel kind of organically connected to the culture and the landscape out there and have done for a number of years,” co-organizer Dick Hebdige said, as quoted by the P-E..  “There are a lot of artists moving out to that corner of the desert.  More than that, there’s a great sense that the desert is an area of special interest in debates about the future.”

The desert, he said, is at the center of discussions regarding environmental concerns, water depletion, resource management and the impact of population on what is a fragile ecosystem.

Some of the art pieces use digital mapping technologies along with the raw landscape, Hebdige said

“I think a lot of artists are fascinated by this new relationship to the land,” he said.

The image above is “Postmodern Mojave Viper” by exhibition artist Christopher Woodcock, who has produced a series of five large photographs focused on the architecture of the Iraq/Afghanistan training villages at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center near Twentynine Palms.

The art installations will be open from 1 p.m. to sunset at JT Getaway Ranch, followed by a series of poetry, video and music performances by the Sibleys and others at 8 p.m. at The Palms Bar and Restaurant.  More info in the Press-Enterprise.  Directions to the event are on the Sweeney Website; click on Dry Immersion 3>Directions for Public.

For more information on the “Mapping the Desert/Deserting the Map:  An Interdisciplinary Response”, including Dry Immersions 1, 2, and 3 as well as an interesting proposal for a Desert Studies program, see the UCR Sweeney Art Gallery 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.

December 10, 2009

“Kcymaerxthaere” this weekend

Filed under: Art, Culture, Events, History — magicgroove @ 12:08 pm

Eames Demetrios, “Geographer-at-Large”, homestead fan, and the instigator of the Krblin Jihn Kabin “historic site” in Joshua Tree, will be presenting “KCYMAERXTHAERE:  A global work of three dimensional storytelling” at Dezart One Gallery in Palm Springs on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 11-12.  Eames tells us the following:

So I am doing a one man show in Palm Springs this weekend based on my alternative universe called Kcymaerxthaere which resides in part in the Kabin we have at Border and Desert Trail (which you are all welcome to visit).

A portion of my talk will touch on these cabins and the way the name Homesteader may actually be a corruption of the word “haumsteadler.”

Eames says the show is a “pretty cool experience for the audience–very simple in a way:  images and storytelling.”

Q&A and book signing to follow each performance.

December 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. Dezart One Gallery, 2688 S. Cherokee Way, Palm Springs (in the Backstreet Art District). Tickets $16 advance/$20 at door.  Reservations: 760.322.0179 or Purchase Online: http://www.dezartperforms.com.   More at Eames’ Events page.

December 2, 2009

“Jackrabbit Homestead” Book and Lecture

Filed under: Art, Culture, Events, History, Literary — magicgroove @ 5:52 am

Kim Stringfellow has announced the release of her long-awaited book, Jackrabbit Homestead: Tracing the Small Tract Act in the Southern California Landscape, 1938-2008.  Per the JRHS Website:

The 136-page hard cover book with dust jacket includes sixty-one color photographs by the author with an accompanying text by Stringfellow:

  • Discusses the largely underrepresented history of jackrabbit homesteading; its historical and theoretical underpinnings, and the participants and boosters of this popular mid-century phenomena.
  • Examines the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) and other U.S. public land policies that form how we perceive, use, and manage the California desert today.
  • Shares the stories of a diverse cross-section of stakeholders and micro-communities who historically and currently are located within this geographically defined area.
  • Examines the shifting/conflicting cultural values within this High Desert landscape.
  • Discusses the architectural legacy of the homesteads and how study of the shacks can inform sustainable and green design practices.
  • Considers why the homesteads become a catalyst for various human projections including how the shacks serve as a source of creative inspiration for the many artists and other creative types drawn to this area.

You’ll find lots of  the Wonder Valley community (including yours truly) in Kim’s book.  To learn more and to order signed and inscribed copies by the author, click here.

Kim will also be giving a lecture on the homesteads at the 29 Palms Old Schoolhouse Museum on Friday, December 11, at 7 p.m.  $5 at the door.  Click here for more information and directions.

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