Saturday, April 9, 2022


Several years ago, past resident Amanda Beech introduced me to Jinny Yu, an artist living between Ottawa and Berlin who has done several projects looking at the legacy of colonialism through the lens of Canada. Jinny does deep research into the history of land, land transfers and related politics and has created abstract paintings on glass that form part of her thought provoking installations. This series of work is titled Perpetual Guest, an iteration of which was exhibited at the Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art in Montreal

Jinny proposed coming to Joshua Tree to research the settlement of the area by non-indigenous peoples and the creation of the National Park. As we are interested in artists telling the less heard stories of the area, we were enthusiastic to have Jinny here. Jinny was able to secure a Canada Arts Council grant for the project and we were all set. Then the border closed. 

After an almost two year delay, Jinny came to Joshua Tree in January, 2022. She digested a lot of information online and through books. She was also to connect with Sara Bliss of the Twentynine Palm Band of Mission Indians and also traveled to the Morongo Reservation where she made some contacts and was able to follow up while here.

What emerged was that Jinny was less involved in the idea of documenting the past and more interested in presenting ideas for how and Indigenous and non-Inidgenous  peoples might live side by side in some form of balance. Settlers in the Basin are unlikely to leave and return the land to Indigenous people so how do we find some form of equitable being?

Before leaving, Jinny gave an artist talk that reviewed her past work and introduced these questions. A lively discussion ensued. You can see the talk here. We are very grateful to Jinny for bringing her perspective to the region and look forward to her return to create a locally inspired installation that reflects the themes she is exploring. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Tree of Life

While organizing the Joshua Treenial in 2019, I got a call from Joe Baker at the Palos Verdes Art Center to say that  they had an artist from Mexico who had just closed an exhibition at the center and that her work would be perfect for the Treenial. JT2019's theme was Paradise Parallax and the works were wonderful small oil paintings of naked figures seemingly being expelled from Eden along with other mythological themes. The center offered to transport the work, install it and sponsor the artist - it was a perfect match.

With the work installed, I finally got to meet the artist - Paloma Menéndez - and she was really delightful to have as part of the Treenial community. Her imaginative treatment of landscape and the human presence were inspiring so it was easy for us to offer her a residency when she enquired about one. Paloma proposed looking at all of the life forms that rely on the Joshua tree and treating this desert icon as an analogy to the Tree of Life or the Mexican Arbol de la Vida. She received funding from Sistema de Apoyos a la Creación y Proyectos Culturales (Fonca) and we set a date. Which twice owing to the pandemic.

Paloma was finally able to travel in mid-November, 2021 and got to work immediately upon arrival. She was experimenting with a new support for the paintings, Duralar, and with some new mediums for moving the oils around. I was able to arrange a field trip into the park with Mark Wheeler, a local biology and botany enthusiast / expert and past president of the local national park association in order for Paloma to get even closer to the subjects of her work. She left a for what she thought would be a few hours before lunch and returned just before sunset, elated and exhausted.

The artists intensive studio schedule paid off with a wonderful open studio exhibition of paintings, drawings and a wall of informational inputs. The event was well attended and several artworks found new homes that day. Many thanks to Paloma for her great energy and wonderful artwork. 

Monday, December 20, 2021


 In early 2020, I got an intriguing invitation from Barbara Gothard, a Palm Springs-based artist I had met several times at various art events. Barbara wanted to meet to discuss an idea. When we got together, it emerged that Barbara had come across the story of a group of African American homesteaders who had come to the Mojave Desert in 1910. She wanted to tell their story through an art installation and wondered if we would host the project at Boxo. It was a quick and simple yes.

In short order, we strategized and decided to apply for both CalHumanities and California Arts Council funding. Barbara did extensive writing which we supported and augmented with budgeting and admin details. The CalHumanities funding would be for a speaking program related to the project through which Barbara could spread the word. The CAC grant would cover the creation of the installation itself and a related catalog.

Barbara also started an intensive research period into the stories of the 23 settler families that began in early 2020 and continued up and through her residency in November, 2021. She titled her project Contradictions - Bringing the Past Forward. With word that she had received the CalHumanities funding coming first, Barbara set up a series of speaking engagements with a group of regional organizations including the Desert Institute / 29 Palms Historical Society, Copper Mountain College, and the James O Jessie Desert Unity Center amongst others. She also contacted the San Bernardino County Museum which agreed to host the installation post the residency as well as to hold several speaking programs. 

Once we had word of the CAC funding coming through, final dates for the residency could be set to coincide with the grant activity period. Barbara launched the speaking program in early October, 2021 and the residency took place in November, 2021. Barbara was also profiled by a local podcast regarding desert women and we both were interviewed by the local radio station Z107.7. Everywhere that Barbara went, her project inspired a lot of curiosity and conversation. 


Barbara decided to produce 23 artworks, one for each of the settler / families. She created the works using Procreate on her ipad and had them printed on raw linen. During her residency, she had studio visits by the DesertX curatorial team as well as some people on cultural tours of the area.


 The open house for the residency  featured 10 of the finished artworks as well as a series of sketches and prototype that Barbara had used to get to the final work. Barbara also created a map of the homesteading area on the floor of the studio.

The event was very well attended, the artist talk was broadcast via zoom and a healthy q&a discussion took place.

The exhibition at the San Bernardino County Museum will open January 14, 2022 with formal events in early February and will run until April, 2022. 

It has been an immense pleasure to work with Barbara on supporting this project's development and I have a learned a lot about our local social history for which I am greatly indebted to the artist.

In Tents

I first met Georgia McGovern and Sebastijan Jemec in August 2019 through an introduction from Vanesa Zendejas at A-Z West. The pair are an artist and architect/designer who were looking for a desert home for their project Terra Incognita. The project involves a series of site specific tents that rely on elements in the landscape to support the structure. The intent was to challenge people to go out into the landscape to spend time on their own, a wilding of sorts. The first of these tents was to be in Joshua Tree. 

I was immediately interested in the project and agreed to host Georgia and Sebastijan for  series of research visits leading up the launch of their project. After the first of these trips in 2019, the pair decided on a location on BLM land in the rocks behind the Boxo residency. The site itself was akin to a cave in which the tent would be inserted - this gave it a wonderful protected sense and allowed for the rocks to serve as supports.

The initial idea was that Boxo would host the finished tent kit as well and have people check it out for a day. Then I had a conversation with a lawyer who assured me that people hiking over the rock pile, possibly unwittingly trespassing on neighboring properties, and the possibility of injury, was just too much risk. Apologetically, I had to withdraw the possibility of keeping the tent locally ad we determined that the tent could be checked out through the mail and that the recommended hiking route would be from a conservation area to the south of the site.

After a couple of research trips, including one cross country trek during the pandemic, Georgia and Sebastijan were ready for the launch. We had originally planned an installation in the studio which would launch a hiking party to the site. However, the pandemic put the cabosh on that. Instead, a launch hike with overnight camping was scheduled in April, 2021 with a small group of friends, including Em Joseph, a filmmaker. Em captured the experience as well as some supplemental footage and edited a wonderful short film that contextualizes the project. In October, 2021, Georgia and Sebastijan introduced the project over zoom with a showing of the film and a conversation.

Many thanks to Georgia and Sebastijan for bringing Tera Incognita to Joshua Tree and to Boxo and I look forward to witnessing future iterations of the project.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Pyramid Power

Kelly Berg’s paintings explore natural phenomena and landscape and express a world that is simultaneously futuristic and primordial. Her work captures the movement of tectonic plates and the growth of geological formations. An ongoing series of paintings feature smooth sided pyramids emerging from cracked ground and she states: “The pyramids rising up through the cracking earth signal something new and powerful is emerging from darkness and destruction. Ultimately from these dark and foreboding crevasses and cracks, something new and optimistic can be born.” 

When Kelly and I got talking about a residency, she told me that she would like to push the rift paintings further by fabricating actual pyramids at various scales and then placing them in the "unsettled landscape" of the Joshua Tree rocks. She wanted to photograph these installations and then bring the process full circle by making paintings inspired by the photographs.

Kelley arrived in late April, just as optimism about vaccines and progress with the pandemic was in the air. She got to work immediately with a geological overview provided by Ranger Christian from Joshua Tree National Park. She also proceeded to place the pyramids in the landscape behind the studio and soon had some wonderful images.

Several outings to the park followed, one with local artist Diane Best. Excursions to Giant Rock and Coyote Hole with Aimee Buyea and a trip out to Amboy Crater with me. Everywhere, the pyramids emerged from the landscape and interesting images and context were achieved.

Kelly began the paintings early on too, using her signature style of painting a detailed black and white representation first and then taking time to layer many thin coats of color over and over. The paintings were at different scales and three were on triangular canvases. Soon a luminous presence emerged in the studio. The evolving exhibition incorporated finished works, works in progress, a selection of photographic works and a display of the pyramids themselves.

We were lucky enough to be able to host a well attended in person open house with the artist talk live streamed to a wider audience. A week of by appointment viewings followed to allow for anyone who was not comfortable yet in group settings. The residency finished off with a final open day.

Many thanks to Kelly for all the preparation, hard work on site and for the captivating artworks that emerged.

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Sun is Spotless

 Jenny Perlin makes films, drawings and installations and we have crossed paths for over a decade at art events in New York. In 2018 we started a conversation which eventually led to Jenny's arrival at Boxo in early January this year.


The residency project came out of Jenny's film work which has recently involved documenting various aspects of the movement to relocate to bunkers. There is a lively industry in reconditioned military facilities that have been converted into bunkers for the day when one or more of a variety of cataclysms hits our society.


Some of the rationale used by people securing these spaces comes from an uptick in astronomical phenomena such as solar flares and double stars. Jenny was keen on documenting these phenomena and making work related to them.

A key tenet of the residency is the desire to link artist residents with local subject experts who can assist with the projects and form relationships with the artists that outlive the residency time period. I connected Jenny with the wonderful people at Sky's the Limit in 29 Palms and the conversations began.

As luck would have it, the covid situation opened up an opportunity for Jenny's family in LA and they relocated for the year in summer 2020. This meant that Jenny could come out for the January 2021 residency we had planned. 


Even before arriving, Jenny was able to work with the experts at Sky's the Limit, using their zoom platform. When she arrived, she was provided with a telescope to bring on property and she promptly began her work. It emerged that this has been a very quiet time on the sun and no spots or flares where apparent. Undeterred, Jenny began making drawings and creating an animation incorporating Galileo's sunspot observations from back in the day. She also managed to finish editing the last of her five bunker films.

 On January 30 2021, Jenny hosted a virtual open house which including a screening of the animation and scenes from the bunker films. A recording of the open house can be found here. Many thanks to Jenny for her time here and to Sky's the Limit for their wonderful generosity.