Road Trip: Noah Purifoy

Outside of Joshua Tree is the magnificent Outdoor Desert Museum of Assemblage Sculpture, created by artist Noah Purifoy. You can read about the Museum here, because I find myself unable to explain it. But I took a lot of photos, and I had notions about what the sculptures meant to me. Purifoy documents our histories, and because he overlaps in time (1917 — 2004) with some of my time, I understood his assemblages on a personal level.

Bicycle racks? Bedsteads? Whatever — I found this sculpture beautiful. Made of junk and placed against the desert sky, familiar junk reassembled into something strange and wondrous.

Another beauty, not easily seen in this photo, but arcing pieces of aluminum, with the desert floor, all dirt and dust, below.

A roller coaster or sliding board — made of 65 aluminum trays. I laughed.

I imagine this as an old bar or bawdy house — wooden — with these plaster pieces stuck over the wood to make it “fancy.” The kind of thing one finds hanging around derelict desert towns.

And here’s one he calls “Gallows.” The desert sun contains darkness — or perhaps is so bright as to blind us to the dark.

We have all seen the burnt out cabins, with past lives partially spread out for all to see. However, this is also a kind of homage to a past artist too — or perhaps it’s a flick in the face: here’s to you, Marcel, and your dissolute ways. One can’t help but think of Duchamp’s Fountain:

But Fountain appears in many of Purifoy’s pieces, such as this one:

The signs above the objects (sorry that I couldn’t make them visible) read Whites and Colored. You may be able to guess which is which.

And perhaps you have to be a westerner to reference this street sign: Hanford is not just a fine stretch of landscape along the Columbia River but is also the failed nuclear waste repository, still not cleaned up with its nuclear poison creeping toward the water; Yucca is not merely a town down the road a piece (Yucca Valley) but also Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository

The 10 acre site is too large for any short piece of writing; the Noah Purifoy Foundation,  the non-profit that preserves the Outdoor Museum, says in its brochure that a catalog of works and writings designed by Noah Purifoy but not published in his lifetime “will be published by Gerhard Steidl” I have found no other reference to this publication, but would hope it was or will be accomplished.   june

Posted in Portland | 6 Comments

Road Trip: The Night Before

Tonight I find myself nervous. Well, perhaps more accurately — a tad anxious. Oh hell, I’m just plain shaking in my boots.

We are very well prepared. I am very well prepared. All contingencies have been accounted for. And yet…

So — we are Joshua Tree, California. The landscape is, well, desert. Very desert. Very very desert.

This rocky bit is behind our motel, which lodging will be abandoned tomorrow for more stark territory. These rocky bits surround the more stark territory.

Jer will be going out Encanto Road in Wonder Valley:

I will be in Wonder Valley also, but further out, in an Experimental Living Cabin run by artist Andrea Zittel, who is secretive about the location of the cabin, but carefully explicit about its, um, lack of amenities. No Mod Cons included, including no running water, no electricity, no internet and no people. A camp stove, a propane heater and candles, along with some gallons of water are provided. Jer will be on alert in his cabin-with-amenities, sitting by his cell phone. But I will spend the week, by myself, off the grid, communing….

Why, you may ask, am I doing this — going out in the desert for a week with only a roof over my head, a roof which shelters art forms and one human being, and not much more. Why, when I am shaking in my boots, would I continue to walk down the scary path? Well, I have asked myself that too.

I like the think that this week will allow me be not-somebody — no name, no questions, not even a pleasant how-de-do. I will have to decide what I want, all on my own — a task not as easy as it sounds. (And likely after a week, I may want company.)

Or –maybe I want to be that transparent eyeball that Ralph Waldo Emerson speaks of. As Wikipedia puts it: “To truly appreciate nature, one must not only look at it and admire it, but also be able to feel it taking over the senses. This process requires, according to Emerson, ‘absolute solitude, [so] a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society, [going] to uninhabited places like the woods where— We return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite spaces, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.'”

There won’t be any woods in Wonder alley, so maybe I won’t be able to lose all mean egotism. And not being male, I have my doubts about part and parcel of god. But, I sort of like being uplifted into space, so perhaps that’s my motivation.

Or, maybe one day when I envisioned the end of winter in Portland Oregon, and imagined more ice, more sleet, more slush, I just took a notion, told Jer I wanted to be alone in a warm desert, he said “find the place and we’ll go,” and here we are.

So here I am, the night before Jer drops me off at my Experimental Cabin (with lots of food and water, of course), to live out a week with nature — the desert in March where my transparent eyeball (covered with sunglasses, of course) thinks about things. I have my pen and journal, my wire for sculpting, and my kindle for reading after dark (George Sanders’ Lincoln at the Bardo.) Also my cell phone, so when panic sets in and the coyote howls and scorpions and snakes appear in my dreams, I can call Jer. There is cell phone service, even in the Experimental Cabin.

Posted in Portland | 5 Comments

Road Trip — Joshua Tree I

We missed doing an entry yesterday. Traffic around LA was fraught, as we expected, and we collapsed into bed as soon as possible. Today we had a relatively short, easy drive to the Best Western in 29 Palms, depicted above.

We visited Jer’s cabin but saw it only from the road in front since he can’t move in until Thursday afternoon. Photos of that to come along. Ate at a yummy restaurant full of hippies and rock climbers.

Here’s a view of 29 Palms and a highway warning light as seen through the motel arch. How exotic!   jer

Posted in Portland | 1 Comment

Road Trip, Going South

We left Ashland this morning after breakfast. The weather report was favorable, and we crossed Siskiyou Summit without incident, no snow, no ice, no need for chains. Just our kind of weather. A bit further south we stopped at a viewpoint near Mt. Shasta. Traffic was light. The truck in the photo seemed lonely. We liked that too. We pushed on to Woodland, CA, where we are spending the night.  jer

Posted in CA, California, I-5 Oregon, Road Trip | 1 Comment

Road Trip: Ashland III

Some takeaways before we go off to tonight’s play and then on south:

The Post is  a brilliant movie. The Post‘s hero is not Tom Hanks, not Meryl Streep, both of whom are admirable supporting actors but rather, the hero is the newspaper itself — the whole schmear — the chaos of the newsroom and its fierceness, the reporters sorting through thousands of flat photocopied sheets, unnumbered, to find the stories. There’s the lack of reverence of the higher decision makers, the speed and decisiveness of the typesetters, the bulk and precision of the presses, the copy editor given a half hour to clean up, pencil on news sheet, the copy of the frantic reporters, the presses putting out the papers, the guys tying bundles, and the working stiffs loading trucks, and then all the other papers throughout the country holding an arrogant administration responsible for actions that caused over 50,000 American deaths.  The Washington Post and its compadres are the hero of The Post.

I cried as it ended.

Another takeaway: Fog freeze is wonderful to see. Freezing fog (also called rime and pogonip) appears in this fashion: “When fog forms in temperatures that are below freezing, the tiny water droplets in the air remain as liquid. They become supercooled water droplets remaining liquid even though they are below freezing temperature. … When droplets from freezing fog freeze onto surfaces, a white deposit of feathery ice crystals is formed.” (from Wikipedia) It’s that “white deposit of feathery ice crystals” that is so magical.

The best freezing fog we saw was around Eugene, on the way to Ashland. The land and foliage below the dark pines was snowless and so more or less light beige. The fog on the tops of the trees made the serried ranks of pines, black beneath and white on top, look like a Chinese ink painting. We have seen freezing fog every day here in Ashland, coming down to the valley floor, floating up, and drifting just below the clouds above.

Freezing fog above Ashland, Oregon, yesterday. Not so much serried ranks as white magic.

And finally, with the kind of settled leisure time we’ve been having in this whiplash weather (snow this morning, with travel advisories to the north), we got to look up “serried ranks” (things close together, sometimes in rows, often used with troops of soldiers, but now seen with shoes and dresses on racks) and “incunabula” (or “…lum”) — books printed before 1500, used in this case by one character in a novel to put another character in place. (The attempt was unsuccessful, as the second character knew precisely what was being spoken of.)

Which brings us back to printed matter like newspapers and The Post. Rumor and various bloviators keep telling us that reading, especially reading anything longer than a tweet, is passe, gone, out of style, lost, the incunabula of our times. And yet our newspapers keep giving us necessary information to allow us to be citizens of our democracy. Long may they continue to exist and long may the publishing of truth trump the desires of individuals to be above us all and above truth itself.

So endeth this hope as well as this stay in Ashland. See you down the road a bit.




Posted in Portland | 6 Comments

Road Trip: Ashland II

Adventures can only go so far. We bailed on last night’s play.  It snowed more overnight but then the sidewalks and streets cleared up, it turned sunny and 40-plus degrees, we checked out our surrounds at the Best Western south of Ashland, found a fine brewpub and Mexican restaurant, sank into a reading afternoon, and woke (well, I woke, he was still reading) to see that it had rained a bit, sleeted a bit, and was snowing, again. We had a play scheduled that evening

We got as far as the car in front of our room when we realized that, although we could probably get to downtown Ashland through the snow-covered ice, walking up the hill to the theater would be dicey. Ashland sits on a hillside. The theaters are all up steep slopes.  Getting back down the hill after the play at 10:30 would be even dicier. As in icier. As in “Falling, contraindicated”.

Harry How/Getty Images , from NPR

We turned around and settled into our warm convenient motel room and watched the women’s figure skating combos. The Russians and their magic stuck in my brain so strongly that all night I floated and glided and twizzled around surfaces filled with art. I never fell in the dreams. And I woke up cheerful, to sun and dry sidewalks and a free day to do Ashland as we love it.

First up, the Schneider Museum of Art, where an exhibit on “Truth” was featuring, among others, Betty LaDuke and Storm Tharp.

LaDuke was born in 1933 and here exhibited six routed wood panels that she made in 2017. That she can still do fine art takes my breath away, as did the art:

Betty LaDuke, “DACA Dreamers: At Home USA # 1–3, 2017, acrylic routed wood panels

LaDuke had a painting titled “Chicago: Mayor Daley and His Dogs. 1965” which may resonate with some of us who still remember the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968. Her general title for the exhibit is “Social Justice Continued.”  Indeed.

Storm Tharp is another exhibitor at The Schneider this month; the general title of these paintings is “Fierce Last Stand.” I like Tharp’s work; this exhibit had what I first imagined were self-portraits but then was disabused of that idea by the person at the desk. Knowing that changed my view of the painting.

Storm Tharp, “Beauty is Harsh 4,” Acrylic on paper.

The rest of the day played itself out as our Ashland days do. We bought Barbara Kingsolver’s “High Tide in Tucson” and Hilary Mantel’s “A Place of Greater Safety” at Bloomsbury Books, ate at Pie + Vine (why do Italian restaurants always smell so heavenly?), walked in Lithia Park, drank afternoon tea, and tried to go to “The Post” at the Varsity theater (movie, not play). Alas, it didn’t open until 6:30 and June was already fainting with a desire for a nap, so we retreated to the motel to watch and sleep through more Olympics. In short, the sun shone on us properly, the art was more than satisfactory, the zuppe at Pie + Vine filled our bellies, and Lithia Park beamed with children making snowforts and climbing monkey bars.

The Schneider Museum of Art with February reflections. The angle of the sun these days makes reflections glorious.

The view from the Theater complex, across the valley to the hills on the other side. The ones filled with fog and snow yesterday.


Posted in Portland | 3 Comments

Road Trip Ashland I

We left Portland with a deck like this.

By the time we were 20 miles south of Portland, the roads were clear and dry. And except for the low passes south of Eugene, nary a drop of precip fell. So Ashland, across from our hotel, looked bleakly winter, but harmless:

This morning we awoke to this:

And this:

I have always wondered about palm trees north of San Francisco.


Posted in Ashland, Travels | 2 Comments