The biennial outdoor exhibition Desert X is back featuring 10 large-scale, and sometimes provocative, installations from Palm Desert to Palm Springs with themes such as a fictitious conspiracy theory, the plight of the Salton Sea and a remembrance of water flowing through the desert.
Economic issues are having a real effect on the art biennial’s fourth edition, Desert X Executive Director Jenny Gil said on Friday. Organizers and artist have been grappling with challenges related to inflation, the rising costs of construction materials and fuel.
“The impact on the global economy is impacting many different aspects of everyone’s lives right now,” Gil said. “We had unsuspected delays of certain types of materials that we need to build art installations. As we were organizing this, the price of gas went up so much and even as a team, we can’t be driving hundreds of miles back and forth. It really reorganized how we think of an exhibition, the extent of it and we think twice every time we get on a plane or on the road because the footprint is important.”
Gil visited Anza artist Gerald Clarke’s installation “Immersion,” an exhibit featuring a 100-foot Cahuilla coiled basket, in Palm Springs after a ceremony earlier in the day at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, where Palm Springs Mayor Grace Garner declared March 3 as “Desert X Day.”
Gil said “I feel that everyone is excited to be back in real life” following the 2021 exhibition during COVID-19.
“We’re definitely in the post-pandemic era. We live and work in it, and learned to adapt,” Gil said. “It’s been challenging, but we’re glad that we can continue organizing this exhibition and I think all of the installations this time are easy to access.”
Desert X runs through May 7 at multiple locations throughout the Coachella Valley, including Sunnylands Center and Gardens, Portola Road in Palm Desert and the James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center in Palm Springs. A complete list of installations and a map is available at desertx.org
Organizers suggest packing a hat, water, sunscreen and dressing in comfortable clothes and closed-toe shoes. Some installations are at least a quarter-mile walk or more through desert terrain.
Liquid A Place
Artist: Torkwase Dyson
Location: Homme Adams Park, 72-500 Thrush Road, Palm Desert
Upon walking up to this surreal arch with what resembles a keyhole in the middle, it’s difficult to understand its relation to the desert. According to artist Torkwase Dyson, the idea for the installation is a meditation connecting a memory of water in the body to water in the desert. The architecture features an especial view of the desert landscape through its archway, and visitors can walk up the staircase and view the surrounding terrain and mountainous background.
After 15 minutes of viewing this installation from different angles and perspectives, the keyhole appearance helps the imagination unlock the beauty and the natural mystery of the desert.
No. 1225 Chainlink
Artist: Rana Begum
Location: 74-184 Portola Road, Palm Desert
No. 1225 Chainlink appears unadorned and repetitious at first. Walking through this maze of yellow chainlink fence, the paths sometimes appear to be shortcuts to the center but lead to another lap around the structure. The narrow walkways feel like a trap and lengthy to get through, but as you find your way to the center, the journey is rewarded when the design is viewed from the inside.
Amor a Dios en Tierra de Indios, Es Oficio Maternal
Artist: Paloma Contreras Lomas
Location: Sunnylands Center and Gardens, 37-977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage
Mexican artist Paloma Contreras Lomas’ art takes on subjects such as patriarchy, violence, classism, colonial guilt and more, but in the form of playfulness. That’s what her installation, “Amor a Dios en Tierra de Indios, Es Oficio Maternal,” feels like.
Using a dated car as a base, there’s a strange assortment of large plush feet popping out of the trunk and various growths out of the hood such as as a cactus wearing white gloves holding a gun in the air and various other figures.
Artist: Gerald Clarke
Location: James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center, 480 West Tramview Road, Palm Springs.
Cahuilla artist and Anza resident Gerald Clarke created this 100-foot take on a a coiled basket as a game board with Native American related questions on a card or accessible through the Desert X app as a way to educate guests on related subjects.
Some examples of the questions are “True or False: There has never been a Native American elected to the office of the Vice President of the United States,” “In 2018, Serrano leader James Ramos became the first California Indian to be elected to what state office?” and “What is the name of the Native American organization that led the Occupation of Alcatraz from 1969 to 1971?”
More:Desert X: Cahuilla artist harnesses art to educate on Native American history
Artist: Matt Johnson
Location: Interstate 10 Exit 110, Haugen-Lehman Way and Railroad Avenue, Palm Springs
This art piece, featuring a shape made of shipping containers, is visible from Interstate 10 and is sure to capture the attention of motorists passing through the Coachella Valley. Artist Matt Johnson created this installation inspired by effects of supply chain issues over the past two years. Its location along the path to the Port of Los Angeles, between the distribution centers in North Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs, is a meditation on the global economy and the logistics of moving the everyday products we buy.
Artist: Hector Zamora
Location: Various locations in Desert Hot Springs
Note: Check Desert X app or desertx.org for locations and dates
Street vendors selling produce and other products set up for business in various roadside locations throughout the Coachella Valley and often go unnoticed. Through performance art in these spaces of dignity, Zamora’s sculptures made of balloons are available to purchase and take home while providing guests to interact with the vendors.
Artist: Hylozoic/Desires (Himali Singh Soin and David Soin Tappeser)
Location: Worsley Road between Pierson Boulevard and Mission Lake Boulevard in Desert Hot Springs
Hylozoic/Desires, the art duo of Himali Singh Soin and David Soin Tappeser, combines multimedia art with poetry and music. In the uninhabited desert off Worsley Road in Desert Hot Springs, this wooden pillar with speakers features voices, music and more around an imaginary conspiracy theory known as “Namak Nazar,” which is a particle of salt driving climate change.
Artist: Tschabalala Self
Location: San Gorgonio Street and Bubbling Wells Road in Desert Hot Springs
This sculpture of a horse combined with a female form on its back tells the story of Native American and Black women whose bodies and labor were exploited for American expansion and growth while also honoring their families.
Searching for the Sky (While Maintaining Equilibrium)
Artist: Mario Garcia Torres
Location: Pierson Boulevard between Foxdale Drive and Miracle Hill Road
Like a mechanical bull, several panels operated by machines represent the environmental struggle of the American West along the Mexican and American borders connected to cowboy culture with intent to maintain and control nature, only to clash with natural forces and fail. The panels don’t move in unison and each are set to move aimlessly in different directions or stand still.
The Smallest Sea with the Largest Heart
Artist: Lauren Bon and Metabolic Studio
Location: 2249 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Inspired by the current state of the Salton Sea, Bon and Metabolic Studio created this whale structure in a heart-shaped pool that speaks to sea’s water shortage and fish skeleton “sand” and the large number of pools in the Coachella Valley.
Desert Sun reporter Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @bblueskye.
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