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Tue11132018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Several monthly art walks take place in the Coachella Valley. They’re pleasant ways to spend cool (or perhaps not-so-cool) desert evenings.

The galleries involved all put on their best faces, and many of them schedule new exhibits to coincide with the events. You can wander at your own pace; talk with artists; and get a feeling for what is happening in our community. You’ll probably be offered light snacks and a glass of wine—and there’s often a performance thrown in as well.

I recently had the opportunity to attend two of them: One in Palm Springs, and the other in Cathedral City.

The Backstreet Art District in Palm Springs hosts its event on the first Wednesday of the month from 5 to 8 p.m. It’s located on Cherokee Way, discreetly hidden behind the Mercedes-Benz dealership off Highway 111. If you haven’t been before, you’ll feel a little bit like an explorer once you find it. It’s a collection of individual galleries and artist studios housed in a compact strip mall. There isn’t much else around, and it’s not visible from the highway.

I arrived just after sunset and found small groups of people wandering in and out of brightly lit storefront galleries. My first stop was Tom Ross Gallery, which features the exquisite abstracts of the artist Rosenberg (aka Ross). He uses a technique of back-painting on acrylic panels to create shimmering lace-like panels in metallic colors. The works have real depth to them because of the technique—and the finished pieces are often a surprise to the artist himself. He describes the paintings as “meditations.”

Around the corner is Galleria Marconi. I spoke with artist Marconi Calindas about his work. He’s originally from the Philippines and divides his time between San Francisco and Palm Springs. His paintings are brightly colored graphics reminiscent of early pop art. At one of his exhibits, he said, he was asked if he’d ever looked at the paintings through 3-D glasses. He was offered a pair—and was surprised to discover his paintings jump into three dimensions. Be sure to witness the transformation for yourself.

Poldi owner Julianna Poldi is a teacher at the Desert Art Center. The exhibit I saw featured her work and that of her students. I was impressed with the quality of her students’ work; I would have never guessed it was a student art exhibit.

At Maxson Art, Greg and Linda Maxson offer a delightful mixture of their own work and pieces by artists they represent. Linda does hand-painted ceramic tiles and paintings. She’s working on a new series that incorporates burlap fabric attached to the canvas, which is then over-painted to create subtle abstracts. Greg makes beautifully crafted wooden boxes that are also musical instruments. There’s a collection of stained-glass kaleidoscopes from another artist that is sure to inspire oohs and aahs with the glittery displays. I was also treated to a performance preview of storytelling by Los Angeles performer Larry Dean Harris.

The highlight of the evening was the exhibit at Stephen Baumbach Photography Studio and Gallery. It’s the first comprehensive show for artist Rebecca Dant. Rebecca teaches printmaking at the Create Center for the Arts; I met her during my volunteer work there. In the show, she presents not only her recent prints, but also paintings and tie-dye art that has not been previously shown. The paintings are a knock out; I could easily live with one or two of them. The abstracts contain multiple references to Miro and to Matisse’s cut-out period. It’s a rare opportunity to see stunning work.

For more information, visit www.backstreetartdistrict.com.


The Second Saturday Art Walk on Perez Road in Cathedral City has a decidedly different flavor. The industrial-retail complex setting is much more urban and gritty—but certainly just as interesting. This art walk is scheduled every second Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m.

Several businesses near the galleries are open for the event as well. A couple of midcentury furniture stores are on hand, and if you enjoy rummaging around estate sales (like I do), Mel’s Estate Sale is fantastic. The owner, Malina, will delight you with tidbits of wisdom and humor as you rummage through her incredible collection of just about everything.

Custom metal artist Jeffrey Spakes works in hand-ground aluminum; his space is a combination gallery and studio. The wall pieces have color applied at high temperatures that makes the works appear to change as you move in front of them. He also created the palm tree for the Cathedral City New Year’s Eve ball drop. The palm tree is now being repurposed into a fantastical giant statue of the Tin Man in the back of his studio.

If you’re looking for sculpture or ceramic art, Trenz Gallery is a great destination. The all-white space is a perfect setting for brilliantly colored glass, ceramic and metal sculptures. There are some exceptional paintings, too. It’s all about color in this jewel box of a gallery.

Irreverence in Art: The World of Robyn Goudy occupies the front space in the Colliding Worlds Fine Art Gallery. The dense collages immediately reminded me of outsider and tramp art; they are witty and irreverent. The artist himself is both of those things as well. I asked him where it came from. “It comes from my attitude,” he replied. Well, as they say, attitude is everything.

For more information, visit www.discovercathedralcity.com/event/2nd-saturdays-art-walk-perez-road-2017-10-14/2018-04-14/.

Published in Visual Arts

Marconi Calindas shows the works of many different artists in his gallery, but for now, he’s shining the spotlight on some of his own colorful work.

Calindas is excited to share Welga (Huelga): A Tribute to the Great Grape Strike with the desert art scene. The works, featuring beautiful, vibrant colors typical of Calindas’ original home in the Philippines, were originally shown in Northern California.

“It was showcased at the EastSide Cultural Center in Oakland during the 50th anniversary of the strike,” Calindas said. ”The exhibition ran for at least a month in the center, and then the organizers brought it with them to other venues in Northern California.”

Calindas—whose list of art exhibitions and awards is beyond impressive—said he was honored to be chosen to create works representing the historic 1965 strike of Filipino grape-pickers. He explained how he came to create the Welga series. (“Welga” is the Tagalog word for strike, while “huelga” is the Spanish word.)

“An organization led by a Filipino professor for Asian American studies from UC Davis (Robyn Rodriguez) knew about my success as a Filipino artist in San Francisco and invited me to participate in their commemoration of the Delano Grape Strike,” Calindas said.

As a Filipino immigrant himself, Calindas said he felt a personal connection to the history of the strike.

Marconi’s expressive and colorful pieces are made from acrylic and ink on canvas, as well as mixed media such as papier-mâché masks. One of the most striking works in the show is “Faces of Difference,” which features nine brightly colored masks—seemingly the same in every way but their vibrant colors.

“This is generally a depiction of my take on people of different colors trying to make a stand and a mark in this country and the world,” he said. “We are different but still the same.”

“A Plant at a Time” (below) depicts a hand placing a plant in the green ground.

“To harvest a better future, we need to plant good deeds and visions one day at a time,” he said about the work.

Galleria Marconi is an upbeat place with positive vibes and spirited art. Calindas considers his gallery a place of social relevance and commentary.

“I grew up in the Philippines and was part of this progressive visual and theater group, Teatro Umalohokan, back in my university years, and being part of the group has molded me to be the artist that I am right now,” he said. “(I want) to convey messages about what’s going on around our community. For me, as an art ambassador, we should also be ambassadors for peace, equality and the change we need for a better life.”

On March 1—during the Backstreet Art District’s First Wednesday Art Walk from 6 to 9 p.m.—Calindas will present a special one-night showing of the works of students participating in local nonprofit arts organization Tools for Tomorrow.

“Kids’ artworks will be mounted on our walls for a night of showcase and celebration for these kids’ talents,” he said.

Welga (Huelga): A Tribute to the Great Grape Strike is on display through Friday, March 31, at Galleria Marconi Palm Springs, 2668 S. Cherokee Way, in Palm Springs. For more information, call 415-418-9546, or visit www.galleriamarconips.com.

Published in Visual Arts