Urban Scrawl 004: The Desert of Lost Art
Photography by Tanja Laden
This mid-June, on a very special edition of Urban Scrawl, we discuss what it means to take a vacation from work, when your job itself is to be curious, and to look at everything you can get your eyes on. How in the world does someone like me take time off from that? I mean, short of a narcotics-infused stay in a sensory deprivation chamber, what am I supposed to do when I want to get away? All the good cities are cultural destinations; you can’t take an exit off any American freeway it seems without being directed to a richly endowed, starchitect-designed regional museum — even, make that, especially, Palm Springs (where I ended up locating my little experiment in consciousness R&R).
I’ve included a good number of pictures from my stay at Hacienda Hot Springs and a short day-trip into town, but only a handful of them are of fine art — and even those are a gesture against the relentlessly incoming tide of information, as you’ll see. When my Flavorpill colleague Tanja Laden (who took all the pictures, except the ones she’s in, which I took) and I headed out for our mid-week weekend, I honestly fully intended to check out the art scene out there. Heather James, Melissa Morgan, Shag, the Palm Springs Art Museum — I’d even say it was a priority. But the second I walked through that heavy wood and iron gate into the miniature, conveniently located oasis of the Hacienda, that dream began to evaporate, to be replaced by a defiant, guilt-tinged giddiness at the thought of blowing off the art and just sitting by the pool with a book for a hot minute. As if to reinforce the point being made by my own subconscious mind, the only book I’d brought was Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. If you haven’t read it (it’s the only Miller I hadn’t yet read, for whatever that’s worth, so I’m done now as far as a I know, with his entire oeuvre) it’s about artists who go as far off the path as they can in a search for an unimpeded state of pure creativity and freedom from the oppressions of civilization — with mixed results. I’m seeing a pattern, as usual.
On the second morning we compromised, and took some of Farzad Kohan’s “Lost Paintings” into town. There they are in their foster homes: the décor section at the world-famous Angel View thrift store, and the Take One flyer bins at the local (closed, empty) real estate offices in a charming downtown courtyard dedicated to Don Quixote. As an aside, I think it’s time to rehabilitate the Man of La Mancha’s rep as a pioneering believer in the power of wind energy; like a Terry Gilliam version of T. Boone Pickens. No? Anyway we lost them there in Other Desert Cities, and we hope they find good homes. You can follow the progress of more of Farzad’s lost art works on his website or on Facebook — he’ll be participating as one of my artists in the upcoming Art Squared Gallery in Pershing Square at the end of June, losing paintings all over the park on Meet Your Neighbor Day — aka the best idea for a public
art event, with the worst name. I’m calling him
a sculpture. But as I was saying, where was I…?
Oh yes, there I was, losing it in the desert…
Tanja says, and she’s not the only one, that I deserve time off just like everyone else, and she’s right. In fact, I’ve been much better about that ever since my little mini-melt in February. I’ve been pursuing a more balanced existence, incorporating things like movies, farmers markets, reading, sleeping, cooking, and walking around into an art-heavy life itinerary. But the fact remains, much like a cop or a doctor, you can’t turn off “art critic” just because you’re on a vacation, or tired. When your job is to look at the world as closely as possible, what does it mean to be off-duty? So… When else would I be in the desert? Am I getting burned out? What’s my problem anyway? Can I smoke in here? These and other fascinating questions nearly threatened to get in the way of my beauty rest — until the second afternoon, when a lovely young man gave me the best massage of my life, expressed sympathy with my “writer’s knots,” and made me promise to get up from my desk and stretch at least twice a day from now on. His name? You can’t make this stuff up. It was Art.