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The 2014 Artists Council Exhibition is currently on display at the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Jorgensen Gallery and Marks Graphic Center. This year’s juror, Donna MacMillan—a generous supporter of the museum—selected some 70 works among submissions from about 400 artists.

The exhibit shows a broad range of representational, non-representational and abstract art in varying media. MacMillan also selected one piece of video art.

The Best in Show award went to Elaine Sigwald for her digitally hand-painted photograph “Sojourners Passing Through Time and Space.” The oversized, glossy vertical image is awash in organic brown and orange-black shapes. Electric blue-white ganglia-like forms create an intense dimensionality and offset the deep browns and oranges. The piece is worth noting, if only for its size and for the artist’s technical proficiency.

Another award winner is Cindy King, whose pen-and-ink drawing “Hills of California” was discussed in a previous Coachella Valley Independent story on the artist.

“Vertical Hold II,” by Irene Ryan Maloney, is a narrow intaglio print. A scratchy purplish form is at the bottom of the work; as a viewer’s eyes moves upward, a well-articulated head in black and white appears. With a blank upward stare, the head at the top becomes what appears to be more of a death mask than a portrait. The piece contains a quiet, controlled power. This print earned the Michele Jamison Memorial Award.

Lucia Grossberger Morales’ “Fractal Sines” didn’t receive an award, but it’s worth noting as the only piece of video art in the show—and it is a stand-out addition. In silence, a video monitor displays a screen of seemingly ever-changing, amorphous cloud-like formations, for four minutes. Clouds change from fun, light and floating, to ominous and threatening. Grossberger’s mesmerizing and almost hypnotic creation shows off shades of blue and purple, with hints of grey.

Atop an orange-red painted panel, Darrell Corn applies a rich deeply-saturated blue encaustic to create “Borneo.” About 80 percent of the panel is covered by the encaustic, and the eye wanders across the entire painting, seeking spaces where the contrasting orange-red peeks through. When a viewer blinks, the orange-red forms seemingly move from backdrop to foreground. The experience of depth is further enhanced by the orange-red patches that at times seem to float.

Jim Riche’s black-and-white photograph “Visitor Center” at first seems like a dramatic presentation of the iconic mid-century building that greets visitors when driving into Palm Springs on Highway 111. The angled roof commands the space with cirrus clouds dancing in the background; unfortunately, the artist’s attempt to frame the bottom of the image by including the small treetops and possibly the ground doesn’t work. The irregular black band, to me, was a visual distraction.

Kim Chasen’s “Blocks 2,” an acrylic and mixed-media piece, consists of two horizontal bands of five blocks. The face of each block is textured to enhance the experience, and each face is in a muddied color, like lime green or orange.

All works in the show, valued between $500 and $6,000, are for sale. The proceeds are equally divided between the artist and the museum’s educational programs.

The awards ceremony for the show takes place in the museum’s Annenberg Theater at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7, and is followed by a reception in the Elrod Sculpture Garden and the museum’s lower-level galleries. Admission is free and open to the public.

The 2014 Artists Council Exhibition is on display through Sunday, Dec. 7, at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, in Palm Springs. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; and noon to 8 p.m., Thursday. Admission is $12.50 general; $10.50 for seniors; $5 for students; and free to members, kids 12 and younger, active military members and everyone the second Sunday of each month and after 4 p.m. on Thursday. For more information, call 760-322-4800, or visit www.psmuseum.org.

Below: “Borneo,” by Darrell Corn.

Published in Visual Arts

When I first walked into Peggy Vermeer’s home in Palm Springs, I was immediately impressed: At 89 years old, she’s still sharp as a knife—and the artwork on the walls is simply mesmerizing.

Vermeer has quite a history as a local artist. She’s well-known for her assemblage art, although she has also done some abstract painting and papercraft. However, she’s best known for what she has given to others: She was the very first teacher at the Palm Springs Art Museum and was the founder of the children’s art program. In fact, she’s still a docent at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Peggy said she’s often recognized around town due to her time as the children’s art teacher at the museum.

“I had a man who came up to me and said, ‘Oh, Peggy. I was in your art class, and I’m 41 now.’ I said, ‘Thank you very much!’” Vermeer said with a laugh.

Vermeer’s interest in art developed as she grew up. Her mother served as an inspiration.

“It started with designing paper dolls, and when I went to high school, I discovered I could be an artist. My mother was an artist, but she didn’t practice it,” she said. “I just started doing it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Vermeer credits Robert Rauschenberg as the artist who inspired her the most. However, she was inspired to start working in assemblage after she met assemblage artist Michael deMeng in Idyllwild.

“It’s found pieces of ordinary objects put together to form an art piece,” she said. “We used to go to the illegal dump to get shot-up old things. Assemblage is putting junk together, really. It can be anything at all. It’s not following any rules; no rules or regulations.”

Sure enough, when you look at the works in Vermeer’s home, there are no rules or regulations. One of Vermeer’s pieces that caught my attention was a piece that featured a raven in a bird cage—positioned on top of a vintage Corona typewriter (below). Another interesting piece is a bust with a Walkman embedded in the chest; it also includes a door with a mirror, an image of the Mona Lisa, and … a broken crack pipe?

“My friend, Brother Andy, he found (the crack pipe) in the street. He was taking a walk, picked it up, and brought it over.”

Vermeer said she doesn’t have any problem finding objects.

“People bring you things,” she said. “Sometimes, you look around your own home, and there it is. You never know, and that’s why you can’t throw anything away.”

When I brought up a work that was in her kitchen, she told me it was assembled from a mannequin she purchased off eBay, a broken shower glass door, gesso paint, acrylic paint, plumbing sealant and some lighting. Vermeer definitely has an advanced knowledge of tools and various skills that would make the average handyman quite envious.

“When I go down to True Value, they run and hide,” she said, laughing. “I’m always asking them for impossible things. I’ve learned how to solder, and I’ve learned how to burn things with a blow torch. I learned a lot of it from Michael deMeng. I took a lot of his online classes.”

She discussed how one of her pieces made it into the Palm Springs Art Museum—and in the process, she reportedly became the first local artist to have her a piece in the renowned museum.

“Last year, I entered one of my pieces into the artists’ council shows. It didn’t win anything,” she said. “Donna MacMillan, the patron of the arts in the valley, bought it and donated it to the museum. (The judge in the contest) said, ‘It isn’t really art.’ … It had lights, a head, and he decided it wasn’t real art because it wasn’t a painting. But the museum was very pleased about accepting it.”

Vermeer is most definitely an original—and she’s not in the mindset of trying to impress typical upscale art patrons. She said she is always out to learn new things and discover how things work. She supports Debra Ann Mumm’s murals project in Palm Springs; she speaks highly of the art scenes coming out of Slab City and the Joshua Tree areas. She also has a high opinion about many artists in the Palm Springs area.

“We have some really interesting artists here in the desert,” she said. “They’re striving and struggling to get shown.”

She also said that she’s been fortunate in her life.

“I was very lucky that I inherited some money. I had a good brother, and I thank him daily,” she said. “What I earned at the museum was nothing.”

She shared some advice for those who want to take up art.

“You can’t make a living as an artist alone; you have to look at it as a hobby,” she said. “… It’s nice to sell, but it’s a struggle. When you commission something, you’ll have a wife who loves it and a husband who doesn’t like it. So you learn if you do a commission that you get paid a certain amount of money that’s non-refundable.”

When she looks back on her life so far as an artist, she said she has no regrets.

“I’m very happy I was an artist,” she said. “I’m glad I got the opportunity to work at the museum, and I had freedom they don’t have now. I couldn’t function there now, because it’s too structured.”

Published in Visual Arts

The Stroke Recovery Center in Palm Springs is truly an exceptional place when you consider that it has around 300 clients—and the services it provides are often free.

The Stroke Recovery Center, at 2800 E. Alejo Road, runs on grants, the kindness of donors and money raised through fundraisers. The organization is holding its biggest fundraiser, the 34th Winter Wonderland Ball, on Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Westin Mission Hills Resort.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states that 700,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke each year.

“It’s the leading cause of a handicap for adults,” said Beverly Greer, the CEO of the Stroke Recovery Center. “The most recent statistics say that one in four families has someone who has suffered a stroke.”

The key to a recovery after a serious stroke is rehabilitation. Even with rehab, there’s no cure or full recovery, but it helps people gain back language skills and independence-related tasks such as dressing and bathing.

“What we have found over the years is that if you continue working with rehab, you really find you can improve, particularly the ability to take control of your life and your activities of daily living,” Greer said. “We can actually get people out of their wheelchairs. They don’t see the doctor or go to the E.R. as often, and they don’t fall as often.”

Many insurance providers, including Medicare, only provide 30 days of rehabilitation, at the most. That’s often not enough for a stroke victim.

“It really comes down to the original Medicare regulations that were put in place during the 1960s,” Greer said. “Stroke isn’t the only thing that has this problem. What Medicare looked at was if you can document improvement in mobility, muscle strength and the elements that are quantifiable. We were not able to do that for strokes past the 90-day level. Therefore, the reimbursement via Medicare was stopped. This is very typical of nursing homes and different types of rehabilitation.”

What does this mean to stroke victims? “Unless you have a lot of means and deep pockets, you really don’t have a lot of options open to you to continue rehabilitation.”

The Stroke Recovery Center provides a variety of rehabilitation programs such as physical therapy, speech therapy, recreational therapy, and healthy meals to clients and caregivers, often at a cost of only $4. During a tour of the facility, Greer pointed out a space on the courtyard patio that will eventually be the site of a new physical-therapy and exercise room. It will be double the size of the current one, which is limited in space and generally packed with clients receiving physical therapy and using exercise machines.

“We say that we see miracles every day, and we really do. It’s absolutely amazing,” she said. “We’ve had numerous people come in, in wheelchairs, and start walking. We see people who have lost their ability to speak for 5 to 10 years start speaking again. We see people coming in with post-stroke depression, which is very common, being able to laugh again and feel good about themselves. It’s a very upbeat environment and a strong community of people here.”

The center does all of this with a budget of around just $1 million annually.

“We have to raise every cent of it,” Greer said. “We have very generous donors and a number of foundations and granting organizations that have funded us for years. We’re always looking for new avenues of support. Because we’re an older organization, a lot of our donors who were with us for the full 35 years are no longer with us, because they started when they were older folks and retired. We’re looking to build a new generation of donors and hope that people understand when they see what we do here, what a good thing it is, and they’ll continue with their support.”

The Winter Wonderland Ball is the center’s main event. This year, the center will honor board member Harvey Gerber and his wife, Angie; local philanthropist Donna MacMillan; and Javed Siddiqi, of the Primary Stroke Center at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. Wayne Foster Entertainment will be providing the live music.

“It’s our big do of the year,” Greer said. “It’s always a big kickoff for the season here in Palm Springs. This year is going to be absolutely spectacular, because we have wonderful honorees.”

The Stroke Recovery Center’s Winter Wonderland Ball starts at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Westin Mission Hills Resort, 71333 Dinah Shore Drive, in Rancho Mirage. For more information or reservations, call James Martinez at 760-323-7676, ext. 112, or visit www.strokerecoverycenter.org.

Published in Features