Made in the Mojave
Museum of Art and History, Lancaster May 13 – July 30, 2017
By Kathy Zimmerer
The vast and hot expanse of the Mojave Desert is interpreted by contemporary artists in an extensive series of solo exhibitions and installations at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History. The stark beauty and desolation of the desert is beautifully captured by the artists Samantha Fields, Kim Stringfellow, Carol Es, Catherine Ruane, Aline Mare, Ron Pinkerton, Nicolas Shake, Randi Hokett and Marthe Aponte. The desert has become the new contemporary art venue with the completion of Desert X, where the Coachella Valley was used as a staging ground for a series of intriguing avant-garde installations.
For the Lancaster exhibit, the distinctive look of the Mojave flora and fauna is explored in depth. Aline Mare takes a microscopic view of the huge Mojave Desert in her Diaton dye transfer print Angle of Repose. This highly detailed and layered image of a dried seedpod multiplies and encompasses the whole composition with delicate serpentine lines and swirling colors of blue and purple. Catherine Ruane’s exquisitely rendered charcoal and graphite drawing, Dance Me to the Edge, shows the intricate structure and rhythmic lines of a Joshua tree in full bloom. The rich plant life of the desert is beautifully encapsulated in this precise and poetic drawing. Martha Aponte takes the Joshua tree and makes its spiky presence three dimensional in her layered and overflowing mixed media sculptures, Tribute to Joshua Tree.
Carol Es works in a dream world of toy animals on springs, weirdly colored desert landscapes and a crooked ladder in Ladder to Dad. In her painting, Unexpected, a patchwork quilt desert is the background for an eerie post punk space vehicle. She also evokes old time camping with a tent, camp chairs, and a sleeping bag. In this mixed media installation, Camp Up To Now, she screens a collaborative video on the vintage T.V and generally evokes the clash of nature with technology in a witty way.
Kim Stringfellow brings together vistas of the desert in her multi-faceted trans media documentary, photography, audio and video installation, including images of a captive desert tortoise, the shrub brush of the desert, the space shuttle at Edwards AFB and other natural and man-made aspects unique to the Mojave desert. Her intrinsic artistic eye pinpoints each of these elements and visually frames them for further exploration and collaboration. Nicolas Shake also makes sculptures and installations from objects picked up in the interstitial spaces of the desert including old shovels, tires, palm tree fronds and the vast and cluttered debris of a civilization on the edge of time. His ink jet prints document his mixed media installations of these discarded objects in glowing hues of green, red and white. Eerie and familiar at the same time, these abandoned shapes and forms have an unnatural beauty when cobbled together.
Crystals envelop Randi Hokett’s mixed media series where she destroys then builds up her shimmering surfaces. She grows the various crystals in an onerous process that echoes the natural formation of rocks and erosion, then manipulates and paints them. In this case, her work, Rift, is stained a deep blood red crimson. Photographs by Ron Pinkerton also reflect the otherworldly aspect of the desert from luminous night skies with emerald green water tanks to old, decrepit shacks that he deftly manipulates by creating glowing, jewel-like colors. Samantha Fields also works intensely with the dreamy look of the barren land as she fills her painted landscapes with atmospheric drama, dark and light, reflecting the desert’s extremes.
A tightly curated exhibit that showcases the best artists that work intimately with the Mojave, their complex imagery acts as a catalyst for the environmental and man made preservation of the Mojave Desert, a precious and endangered space of brilliant light and harsh realities.