Jeffrey Gibson is ALIVE at Desert X

Photo Courtesy Jeffrey Gibson

Jeffrey Gibson is ALIVE at Desert X

Gibson brings his unique vision of the desert to life for the inaugural Desert X

By H.C. Arnold

Through April 30th


Neville Wakefield believes that if the Coachella Valley can host a globally-hyped music festival, then it can also be home to a biennale style art extravaganza. Desert X will open February 25th and runs until April 30th. Using the vast expanse of desert as gallery and canvas, Desert X brings attention to the environment and living conditions in the 21st century.

Invited to create for the exhibition, Jeffrey Gibson arrived from New York and found himself at a loss for how to create something worthy of such a monumental space. Standing at the foot of a wind turbine, startled by its size, power and other worldliness, Gibson found his inspiration.

Alive at Desert X. Jeffrey Gibson. Photo Courtesy of the Artist.

“I was amazed at the scale, and when I looked out at the landscape populated with them,” he said. “I realized that they skewed my own sense of scale. The landscape became that much more expansive.”

With a 53 foot long, decommissioned wind turbine blade, paint, glitter, and his own vision for the desert valley, Gibson has created ALIVE, a site-specific installation that he could not make in New York and one that manages to avoid the hackneyed and cliché notions of the desert.

Back east, Gibson had created artwork by refurbishing punching bags with beading, so tackling the blade made sense. Both signify power in their own way, but they also reveal the delicateness of power. During their several weeks in the desert, Gibson and his team faced wind gusts up to 40 mph, heaters breaking down and the onslaught of rain that hampered the paint’s drying time.

Now shimmering with a painted disco-patterned patchwork of vibrant colors, ALIVE provokes ideas about the necessity of recycling and renewable energy as well as abstraction and aesthetics. Gibson explained, “the blade is really beautiful in form, and its shape reminds me of a wing, a fin, or a bone from a massive whale.”

Alive at Desert X. Jeffrey Gibson. Photo Courtesy of the Artist.

“Desert X,” says curator Wakefield, “is all about the landscape.” Quoting Balzac, he goes on to say, “the desert is God without man”. But Gibson sees the desert as a place of man. Running along the blade in stylized letters are the words: “I AM ALIVE! YOU ARE ALIVE! THEY ARE ALIVE! WE ARE LIVING!”

Referencing the various communities of Palm Springs, he bends the pronouns around, reminding us how identities shift according to who is talking. Regardless of which community is speaking, there is no denying the collective “we.” “We” is about diversity. It’s a pronoun that demands the sharing of both similarities and differences in that every collective is made out of individuals. And in the contemporary rise of the “us” versus “them” mentality, Gibson reminds us that we need to be saying “we” a lot more.

Desert X runs from February 25th through April 30th, 2017 in Palm Springs, CA. “ALIVE” will be on view at the Palm Springs Art Museum sculpture garden. For more information visit the Desert X website:


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