Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Long View

Tyler Morgan is now based in New York and Connecticut, however, he was a resident of Palm Springs for Many years. Joshua Tree National Park has always been a refuge for him and he wanted his residency project to contribute to the effort in some way. With the huge growth in visitorship to the Park, Tyler also noted a large increase in bottled water being sold at the local visitors center. Having made the elimination of single use plastics a personal goal, Tyler set out to do something about this.


Tyler's first idea was to create a sculpture in Joshua Tree that would also serve as a source of free water for Park visitors to fill up. He was looking to install the sculpture in the central part of town, on land behind the Art Queen. After much research, Tyler determined that this would not be feasible withing local authority guidelines. He has since turned his efforts to working with the Joshua Tree National Park Association to install a water fountain and bottle filling station. These facilities are not currently available owing to past restrictions connected to the drought.

While working on his water project, Tyler also returned to the Park multiple times, undertaking an exercise of just listening and observing in several different locations - looking for what opens up after we stop trying to see and hear. Tyler offered  a session at the Artist Tea in the Park where people where invited to see and listen in new ways to that which surrounded them. Tyler led a group through a  drawing exercise focused on the broad sweep rather than the detail.

For his open house at Boxo, Tyler created an evocative installation. On his trips into the Park he had filmed a 30 minute sunrise from the North View trail. North being the direction in which the Joshua trees are said to be migrating, driven by climate change. Tyler ordered some rocks, quarried near Joshua Tree and then taken down to Palm Springs to be sold. He had them delivered back to Joshua Tree and installed them in the studio along with the pallets they came on. Evidence of the cycle of commerce that is driving climate change. He inserted all the lights into red tubes, creating a complete and dystopian hued environment. Tyler projected the film of the sunrise with a soundtrack that emulated tinnitus - what one ultimately hears in the Park if one actually finds silence. Tyler inserted a glitch into the video every 5 minutes or so, just in case one slipped into any sense of ease with the human condition and its effects on nature. 

Many thanks to Tyler for his impactful installation at Boxo  and for his continued work on cutting back the use of plastics in our region.



Materiality of Exile

Ana Sanchez-Colberg and I have known each other for 35 years (since college) and Ana's residency in November was a 30th anniversary of the dance theater company we founded together in London in 1989. Ana has kept Theatre EnCorps alive over the years and has  taken it into new directions in Greece. 

Ana and I have been looking for a way to work together again and her current series of projects dealing with prime numbers presented the opportunity. Ana was looking for a project to deal with the number 11 and we were able to schedule time in November (11) of 2019. Her original idea for a desert project was to examine perceptions of the aging female body and the desert as sites of inhospitability. As I have been developing a focus on Unseen Faces/Unheard Voices, I asked Ana if we could build in an element of working with the local Latin community which makes up 24% of the population however is rarely seen in cultural presentations.

The resulting project, 1[-1] Materiality of Exile, saw Ana work with eleven local Latin women, creating "portraits" of them and the manner in which they work to make  inhospitable territory into hospitable. The idea was to create an eleven minute video for each of the women, in which material from interviews and movement exercises would be cut with Ana's choreographed interpretation of the woman's story. There would be several excerpt performances at different venues and a final installation in the studio at Boxo that would bring all the stories together. The project was awarded a prestigious MAP Fund grant and Ana arrived at the beginning of November to undertake the work.

I had to reach wide to find eleven women willing to enter into the unknown territory of meeting with Ana, undertaking movement with her and telling their stories on video. We offered compensation for time however recognized the challenge of the project. Luckily, by the time Ana arrived, I had recruited a group and exactly eleven women turned up for the introductory meeting. Following the meeting, Ana set to work. Luckily, a former student Dawn Schultz, arrived from New Jersey to work with Ana on capturing the stories and some of the footage of Ana dancing in the landscape.

All the sessions with the women were completed within several days and then Ana set to work. She set herself the grueling task of editing the eleven audio tracks, inserting original sound elements, and eleven video tracks, incorporating footage of her movements, and then bringing it all together. Along the way, she presented the project at an Artist Tea in the Joshua Tree National Park, and in performance at the Palm Springs Art Museum and Rubens Ranch in Coachella. Each woman had also created a memory box of sorts in clear acrylic boxes that were brought to the venues.

Toward the end of November, Ana created an installation in the studio using cell phones, mylar blankets and set of white clothing she had danced in to make each video. On November 30th, the final performance took place with Ana dancing all eleven stories in the outdoor field whole the individual stories could also be viewed in the indoor installation. Many brave souls came out in the 40 something degree weather to witness the work.

In parallel to this entire process, Ana had recruited eleven artists, including Dawn, who undertook parallel projects working in their individual communities. All of this can be viewed on the blog. The project also lives on in a tour of the installation which will be viewed next in Miami and and then in Palo Alto, TX. Future plans are being made to get the work to New York and Puerto Rico. All events were also live streamed and archived and the audience therefor extended virtually.

A huge thank you to Ana for bringing such an extensive project to Boxo and for the new opportunities for community collaboration that it has opened up.

Monday, February 3, 2020


I was introduced to Eli Hirtle through another artist named Shawn Shepherd who I was introduced to by Deborah Page, a collector from Palm Desert. One things leads to another. I was on my summer travels discovering artists and places in the PNW and beyond. Eli lives in Victoria, BC and is a nêhiyaw(Cree)/British/German filmmaker, beadworker, visual artist and curator. Eli has made several films about indigenous language revitalization and makes work related to his journey of reconnecting with his true heritage.

In 2018, I was looking for residencies that could fit into the Unseen Face/Unheard Voices focus that I wanted to bring to the program. While a lot of good art is made in the Joshua Tree region, very little of it addresses the pressing social issues outside of climate change and I wanted to kick start the discussion. I had been looking for emerging contemporary artists with an Indigenous background and was disappointed to find a vacuum in the Southern California art scene. 

Eli and I spoke honestly about the challenge of bringing someone from a very different heritage to the Joshua Tree area to make work and take up the issue. We determined that as long as he was able to meet with some local Indigenous artists and research the local context, we could use the lens of dislocation to view the process.

On the back of an extensive tour for screenings of his latest film in Western Canada, Eli arrived at Boxo at the beginning of October, 2020. Gerald Clarke, a Cahuilla artist who has participated in the Joshua Treenial, agreed to spend a day with Eli touring him to the Morongo Reservation and familiarizing him with local traditions. Gerald is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum. 

When Eli arrived, he was taken with the night skies we enjoy in the region and decided that his residency project would involve telling the alternate stories of the constellations which are derived from his Cree traditions. Using the medium of beading, he created an evocative piece beaded onto black leather. In addition to beading the constellations themselves, Eli beaded their names in the nêhiyaw language. 

Eli's open house engaged viewers with discussion of the parallel dark histories of Indigenous people in Canada and the US as well as the possibilities of different tellings of the stories of our skies. There was a very lively discussion and several attendees followed up with articles and emails demonstrating the appetite in the region for discussing these issues.

We were also able to have Eli included in programming at the Palm Springs Art Museum where he screened his newest film, Voices on the Rise, and again engage the audience in a discussion of the issues.

A huge thank you to Eli for venturing so far south to help raise awareness and for the wonderful work he was able to accomplish while at Boxo.


Friday, November 8, 2019

Dual Purpose

Severin Gulepa is a Swiss artist well known in the desert region for the work he has done with the Matza cooperative at Roys Motel in Amboy, CA. I'd seen this series of impressive projects when driving through Amboy to Santa Fe and Monument Valley. In November 2017, Severin contacted me about stopping by and he ended up attending the open house for Johanna Wagner. Following our meeting, Severin asked about proposing a residency as well as how to participate in the Joshua Treenial. We found a great way to accomplish both when Severin proposed a Treenial project for 2019 and I agreed to have him in residence in the period leading up to the event.

In keeping with the theme of Paradise :: Parallax, Severin proposed making two large structures inspired by Native American pottery and basketwork forms. He arrived in mid-March following an apartment move in Geneva with just three weeks to get his project completed. We selected a site and Seeverin wasted no time getting to work. Day after day he was in the field, portable tools, ladder and tons of wood in hand. After about 10 days, he had completed the first structure. No sooner was this done than the cruel Spring winds blew through and shredded the piece. Unfazed, he went back to work on a more reinforced and wider spread version.


This second piece survived the continuing winds and became the installation titled Supermarket. Once finished with his sculpture, Severin volunteered his skills during installation and helped several others, sharing his learning about concrete anchoring, angle of orientation with the winds and doubled reinforcing. Many thanks to Severin for spending time here, sharing his impressive work and helping others achieve their Treenial Projects.


Who Owns the Landscape?

For the 2019 Boxo program, I wanted to hosts artists and raise awareness around several historically underrepresented communities. As part of the queer community in the hi desert, I was interested in what type of project proposal would come from someone making art from a specifically queer perspective. Via a friend, I contacted Visual AIDS, the amazing NYC-based organization that does important work around art, AIDS and the wider queer context. Through Visual AIDS, I was introduced to Ben Cuevas and was immediately intrigued by his amazing knit artworks.

Ben and I spoke on the phone and he told me that he could not take the time off work to do a full residency. As I had done before, I suggested a "low residency residency" involving several weekends of research in Joshua Tree, making the work in LA and then an exhibition back at the BoxoPROJECTS studio. Ben was thrilled at the idea and we began to plan.

Ben first visited in October 2018 and I hosted a meeting of the local Queer Salon series to welcome him and introduce him to the local community. Over the weekend, Ben drove around the area and became fascinated by the rock formations. Once back in LA, Ben was ready to scope an approach. Although his work usually involves the body, he proposed making a series of wall hangings depicting the landscape. He came across a knitting technique called fagotted fringe which was perfect for the purpose and also wanted to incorporate macrame. In this way, Ben was challenging the white hetero-normative depiction of landscape, inserting a queer interpretation and using techniques often associated with ethnic and low art practices.

Ben scheduled to come back in December to capture imagery for the project and I was able to arrange for him to give a workshop at the Palm Springs Art Museum Teen Academy where he presented his practice and worked with the students to challenge the gendered constructs and physical limitations of craft through knitting. He spent a lot of time in the National Park with a Polaroid camera through which he captured the subjects for his works.

Queering the Landscape, Ben's wonderful installation of large scale wall hangings and associated polaroids opened February 2nd 2019 and ran for six weeks. Thank you to Ben for sharing his unique perspective with the local community and creating such a successful exhibition. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Surveying the Landscape

Ben Stanwix came from Cape Town where he had already spent a good amount of time on his residency project involving the ways in which we perceive landscape. From that distance, he used google maps to survey the area and then made a gigantic fabric tapestry, titled One, that approximated the digitization he experienced when trying to zoom in.

This strategy continued once Ben arrived - surveying the land and local history from various vantage points and then making work related to the initial perceptions and distortions he encountered. The grid, true north vs. magnetic north, historical images and even the yellow marking on electrical poles all became material for a range of works including drawing, photography, sculpture and assemblage. And the studio was turned into a veritable laboratory for the exploration of materials and form.

Ben gave a wonderful presentation at Artists Tea in Joshua Tree National Park where participants were able to workshop making art pieces using string, ribbon and magnets. Ben also got participants to read texts illustrating the mistranslations that occur when we allow the narrative to run through technology. One was prominently displayed on a rock overlooking the event. 

For his open house, Ben created a very full exhibition of works with One again presiding over things from the nearby rock pile. The open house for was well attended and the work very well received.

Many thanks to Ben for winging it over from such a distance and for reflecting back the local landscape in such an innovative and comprehensive manner.

Friday, December 14, 2018

One woman's trash is another woman's treasure....

Constance Old up-cycles pieces of plastic and paper using the traditional technique of rug hooking. We met at Art Palm Springs 2018, and I liked her work a lot. I immediately had the idea to team Constance up with the Joshua Tree Clean Team, a tireless group who keep the desert looking close to pristine. She was very interested in the idea, and I put her in touch with Cynthia Heaton, lead organizer. 

Constance arrived in October, 2018 just a few days ahead of the next Clean Team outing. She carried out a test run, carefully organizing a taxonomy of her findings. On the appointed day, Constance went out with the team - eleven people filled thirteen large trash bags in just one hour! Constance hauled all thirteen bags back to the studio for processing.


She sorted the items, selecting the most promising pieces and refilling the bags with her discards. Selected items were then washed and sorted into categories by size, color and material. Constance then began making work. Her pieces in Joshua Tree differed from those in her home studio. They were much larger in scale and composed of differing elements. Box springs, pop cups, a thoroughly recycled fridge, traffic cones, shoes and other jetsam were all incorporated.

Constance installed one large sculpture, titled Always One Shoe, Never Two  in an empty advertising frame along Hwy 62 - a hint at the work to come. She also participated in the Artist's Tea held weekly in Joshua Tree National Park. Constance brought Always One Shoe with to the talk and led the group through a weaving exercise. She concluded her residency with a very well attended and received open house featuring the diverse array of work she had created.

Many thanks to Constance for venturing cross country to help clean the desert and make compelling work from her finds.