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The Artists Council is now fully independent from the Palm Springs Arts Museum—and its inaugural exhibition as an independent organization, rather appropriately, is based on the theme Metamorphosis.

The exhibition and sale will be celebrated with a catered opening-night reception on Thursday, March 28, from 6 to 8 p.m., and will be on display at the Artists Council’s new home—the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert—through Friday, April 12. The exhibition is free and open to the public, as is the opening-night reception, at which attendees will be able to meet the artists and vote for the People’s Choice Award.

For 50 years, the Artists Council was a part of the Palm Springs Art Museum. On Jan. 1, the Artists Council became a fully independent nonprofit organization. Its mission is to promote the art and artists of the Coachella Valley.

Metamorphosis was chosen as the first exhibit’s title by the new board of directors.

“We chose this theme for our inaugural event because it mirrors the process by which our new Artists Council is developing,” said exhibition chair Tony Radcliffe in a written statement. “Our goal is to demonstrate the high quality of artistic achievement by AC members and to bring a new audience to see their work in the beautiful art museum known as the Galen. This is also an opportunity for the public to visit (the Palm Springs Art Museum) in Palm Desert. All of the artwork is for sale, with proceeds split between the artists and the new Artists Council.”

I spoke with Radcliffe by phone about how the transition was going, as well as the Artists Council’s new home at the Galen, the Metamorphosis show, and the future vision for the Artists Council.

“Since becoming independent in January, there seems to be more energy, and it’s an exciting time for us,” he said. “The hardest part, the dirty work, was creating a new nonprofit organization. There are all the finances and budgets. When we were part of the museum, all of that was done for us. Sometimes, changes are hard.

“We are very happy to have our exhibition at the Galen. There’s 4,000 square feet of display space. This allows us to do much more interesting things and to show more local art. I think it will help invigorate the space and draw a different audience—people who may not attend museum shows. There’s a lot of talent in the local scene. Lots of artists live in this area.”

Radcliffe said it’s important to the artists to have their work shown in a museum setting.

Metamorphosis is a juried museum show. This sets the bar higher, and we are building on that high quality,” he said. “Our jurors are well-known and respected. You really have to improve your art to get into these shows.

“The Artists Council offers critiques for our members and classes to improve not only the art, but also improve the business side of what they do. The classes and critiques are run by experienced artists. This allows our members a chance to look at things differently.”

The Metamorphosis jurors are Alma Ruiz, a senior fellow at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Los Angeles, and curator of the 2020 Bienal de Arte Paiz in Guatemala City; and Mary Ingebrand-Pohlad, internationally known for her abstract landscape sculptures and member of the Palm Springs Art Museum board of directors.

The new Artists Council board has a bold vision for the council.

“We’re talking about an online gallery with the ability to purchase art online. This would give us a whole new audience,” Radcliffe said. “We’d like to try to have exhibits outside of our area and invite other Southern California artists and even artists from foreign countries to participate. We’d like more opportunities to show our work in other museums.”

Metamorphosis, an exhibit by the Artists Council, will be on display through Friday, April 12, at the Palm Springs Museum of Art in Palm Desert, 72567 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. For more information, visit artistscouncil.com.

Published in Visual Arts

The Artists Council was established 50 years ago when the Palm Springs Museum was still primarily a natural history and science museum. The purpose of the council was to sponsor exhibitions of local artists and bring support for the arts into the mix of the museum's offerings.

The early work of the Artists Council paved the way for the evolution and growth of the museum—a transformation that was formalized with the renaming of what is now the Palm Springs Art Museum in the early 2000s.

Over the years, the Artists Council itself has grown in size and ambition. While still operating under the umbrella of the Palm Springs Art Museum, the council has recently begun partnering with other art organizations and schools throughout the Coachella Valley—and last spring, the council announced it would become a new nonprofit art organization independent from the Palm Springs Art Museum. Much of the groundwork for this metamorphosis has been completed, and in early 2019, the council will begin fully operating under its own leadership. Both the challenges and opportunities are enormous.

But first, it’s time to celebrate—with the annual Artists Council Exhibition, taking place at the Palm Springs Art Museum from Oct. 20 through Dec. 9.

I talked with Terry Hastings, the co-chair of this year’s Artists Council Exhibition, to find out more about what lies ahead for the council, local artists and our broader community.

What does the Artists Council offer to the Coachella Valley?

First of all, art is important to the mental and spiritual health of a community. It is important to have organizations dedicated to supporting local artists. They are our neighbors, friends and families. They contribute a tremendous amount to the quality of life we enjoy here. Organizations like the Artists Council promote local talent and provide a network for artists to display and sell their work. This keeps money within our community. It also allows us to meet and have a one-on-one connection with the people who create the art.

What kind of services does the Artists Council provide to members?

The purpose of the council is to nurture artistic creation. We provide our members with exhibitions to display and sell their work, critiques, demonstrations and lectures, and field trips. One of the most important benefits is the opportunity to network with other local and regional artists, art patrons and people in the community.

There are about 350 members now. We're looking to expand our membership and having the freedom to partner with different arts organizations in the valley.

How do you plan to attract new members?

We look forward to maintaining the prestige status of our museum affiliation. This affiliation differentiates the Artists Council from other art organizations in the region.

We need to be more creative and responsive to our community. All museums operate under a bureaucracy. They need to be deliberate and carefully research things before making a decision. You always need multiple approvals before taking action. By becoming independent, we increase our ability to react spontaneously.

We plan to hold more regular classes, and also more exhibitions and lectures. We want to offer higher-end classes with nationally known teachers, and we'll simplify the admissions policies. We welcome anyone eager to engage in a wide-ranging dialogue about art and its place in the community.

What are the biggest challenges facing the council?

Many of our future plans are still in flux. It's time for us to take control of our own fate. We are looking for board members with a business background to help us create and implement a new business plan and budgets.

Funding is always a challenge. Our 501(c) tax status is already in place. We will continue to receive some funding from the museum, but new fundraising events are needed.

We are looking for new facilities to continue our classes, salons, critiques and networking opportunities. We also want to establish a permanent gallery.

What is different about the annual Artists Council Exhibition at the museum this year?

I'm very excited about showing the depth and breadth of the artists in the council. The works selected for this show are penultimate examples from the finest artists living in the Coachella Valley.

It is a juried show. A very high caliber of judges was purposely chosen to reflect different backgrounds and areas of expertise. This year, the judges include Anne M. Rowe, director of collections and exhibitions at the Sunnylands Center and Gardens; Cybele Rowe (no relation), an Australian artist, professor and local resident; and Chip Tom, curator at Heather James Gallery in Palm Desert.

Artists Council members were invited to submit three pieces each, of which only one could be selected for the show. We did not give the judges any criteria and just allowed them to select the works to be included in this year's exhibition.

This year's judging has been more rigorous and intense. Because of this, there is a broader scope of work represented in the final selection of 44 pieces for this exhibit.

The judges made their initial selections from photographs, but the actual judging (for the exhibit’s awards) will be finalized once the art is hung in the museum's gallery. The awards ceremony will be on Oct. 27 at 5:45 p.m. in the museum's Annenberg Theater. The cash awards will be announced then, followed by a reception in the Elrod Sculpture Garden. The public is invited.

Uschi Wilson, a local artist and the other co-chair of the Artists' Council Exhibition (pictured below with Hastings), expressed her aspirations for the future in a written statement.

“‘Expanding the Visions,’ our new mantra, developed out of a sincere desire to make the Artists Council a creative, fresh and forward-thinking organization, serving all artists in Coachella Valley and beyond,” she said. “The Artists Council has assisted artists for over 50 years, and we are looking forward to the next 50 years, knowing that what we have in store for the future is nothing less than marvelous.”

The annual Artists Council Exhibition takes place Saturday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, in Palm Springs. The exhibition’s awards ceremony takes place at 5:45 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, at the museum’s Annenberg Theater. Admission costs vary. For more information, call 760-322-4800, or visit www.psmuseum.org.

Published in Visual Arts

The Coachella Valley is a vibrant community for the arts—a place where aesthetics still matter. Not only is it a spectacular setting; it is rich in design, architecture and the visual arts.

The area has long been fertile ground for artists and interesting personalities. Our valley’s cities encourage and support a creative culture (with a few notable exceptions … but that’s a topic for another article). We have renowned museums that share their collections and expertise with locals and visitors alike, while a wide range of galleries provide art-lovers with a diverse palette of genres from which to choose.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Palm Springs Art Museum has such a large and vibrant Artists Council—and it is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a huge exhibit of works by local, living artists: The Third Annual Artistic Expressions of the Coachella Valley will be on display from March 1 to April 29 at the University of California, Riverside-Palm Desert Center.

I spoke with Terry Hastings, the president-elect of the Artists Council. He explained that the Artists Council is the oldest of the nine councils of the Palm Springs Art Museum, founded back in the days when the museum was a small regional organization dedicated to Western art. The Artists Council has since grown to include 350 members.

The purpose of the Artists Council is to nurture artistic creation with exhibitions, education and networking opportunities. It was Hastings, he said, who proposed the idea of the Artistic Expressions exhibit to UCR-Palm Desert three years ago. One of the goals of this exhibit is to get art out of the museum and into the community.

This year marks the first time the exhibition is a juried show with cash prizes. There will also be a “People’s Choice” award, to be presented on April 21.

The exhibit will showcase 70 works of photography, painting and sculpture from 49 local artists, including students from the UCR Art Department. A panel of three judges selected the works being displayed.

There will also be two demonstration and discussion days by members of the Artists Council—on Saturday, March 24 and April 21, from 10 a.m. until noon. A wide range of subjects and techniques will be covered, including photography, watercolors, colored-pencil techniques, acrylics and oil painting. There will also be a discussion of art and the Internet, and how artists can promote and sell their work.

“UCR Palm Desert Center has become a hub of artistic exploration and celebration, showcasing the rich diversity of talent we have in the Coachella Valley,” said Tamara Hedges, the executive director of UCR-Palm Desert Center, in a news release. “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Artist Council on this exhibition. This is the third year, and I have no doubt it will be the best show yet.”

Third Annual Artistic Expressions of the Coachella Valley will be on display from Thursday, March 1, through Sunday, April 29, at the University of California, Riverside-Palm Desert Center, 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, in Palm Desert. There will be an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, March 1; RSVP by visiting palmdesert.ucr.edu/programs/events.html, or calling Zelda Glenn at 760-834-0592. Jurors’ award selections will be announced at the reception. Artworks are for sale, with 30 percent of sales benefitting the Palm Springs Art Museum. For more information, visit psmuseum.org/artists-council.

Published in Visual Arts

Imagine if what you did every day for work was constantly being judged and juried. Unless you were a criminal on trial, it might feel unnatural.

But for an artist, being judged and juried can be a welcome experience. That is why more than 300 artists submitted their original works for consideration for the 2017 Artists Council Exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum, which will be on display from Saturday, Oct. 7, through Sunday, Dec. 10.

The Artists Council is a group that supports and nurtures artists by providing them with exhibitions and networking opportunities. Its membership includes 350 local and regional artists and art patrons, as well as members of the general public who want to engage with the local art scene. The council also produces workshops for adults to learn and enhance their own artistic skills.

The Artists Council Exhibition was created by its members and is held annually in the fall. Now in its 48th year, the exhibit includes works by more than 40 Artists Council members. All of the work is for sale, with 50 percent of the proceeds going to support the Palm Springs Art Museum. A color catalog with images of all the artwork will also be for sale.

Daniel Hogan is the Education Department and Artists Council coordinator at the Palm Springs Art Museum. “There is always great art in this exhibition,” he said. “There are always some great buys at this exhibition, as some of the exhibiting artists are up-and-coming and still making a name for themselves.”

Did Hogan find surprises in any of this year’s art?

“There are always surprises with art that asks questions,” he mysteriously responded.

A team of jurors is curating the exhibition, including Lita Albuquerque, an internationally renowned installation and environmental artist, painter and sculptor. She is part of the Light and Space movement and is known for her pigment pieces created for desert sites. She is also a member of the faculty of the Fine Art Graduate Program at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. Joining Albuquerque is David Pagel, an art critic, curator and professor of art theory and history in the Claremont Graduate University Art Department; he writes regularly for the Los Angeles Times. Also on the jury is Rick Royale, owner of Royale Projects, a contemporary art gallery located in Los Angeles’ downtown arts district.

These jurors will announce the winners at a ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 7, at 5:45 p.m. The program is open to the public, and will be held in the museum’s Annenberg Theater, followed by a reception in the museum’s atrium.

The Artists Council also offers free workshops for members at the Palm Springs Art Museum. This season, the council has scheduled four experimental hands-on workshops. One is entitled “Printing With Shadows.” There will also be four “The Business of Art” workshops with topics like “Getting Your Art Online,” “How to Write Your CV” and “How to Price Your Art for Sale.” Finally, the museum will hold life-drawing sessions with live models, as well as critique workshops, during which members are invited to bring up to three of their art works.

For more information, e-mail Daniel Hogan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or go to www.psmuseum.org/artists-council.

The 2017 Artists Council Exhibition takes place from Saturday, Oct. 7, through Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, in Palm Springs. Admission costs vary. For more information, call 760-322-4800, or visit www.psmuseum.org. Below: “All That Jazz” by Cathy Pitts, oil on canvas.

Published in Visual Arts

Temperamental artists took to the Internet after the Palm Springs Art Museum announced the works that would be included in the Artists Council Exhibition 2015.

Normally, the complaining ends within a week of the announcement; however, this year, the comments seemed especially fractious. While most selected artists took pride in their inclusion, many Artists Council members who were not included criticized every aspect of the selection process, from the number of jurors to the number of submissions per artist. (Full disclosure: I submitted art to the show which was not selected.)

Some suggested that the museum create a show featuring the rejects. Regrettably, a small contingency made the conversation personal, impugning the integrity and competency of Artists Council peers.

The results of the selection process are now on display for everyone to see. Unfortunately, I found a fair number of the pieces to be derivative, in a way that does not add to an understanding of an artist or school of art. In addition, I felt some included artists need to rethink their message, and how it is expressed. However, since I am in the awkward position of being a reviewer whose own work was not selected for the show, I’ll focus on the pieces that were decidedly successful.

The narrative presented by Debra Thompson’s assemblage-encaustic “Newtown 26” contains at least two stories: In addition to skillfully honoring the lives lost as a result of the Sandy Hook killings, the artist covers her journey toward a personal understanding and reconciliation of that event in the context of the Second Amendment and the need for the United States to find a better way to address the mental-health needs of its citizens.

Thompson constructed a less-than-pristine American flag out of a series of materials. Some of the 50 white stars are missing. In their stead, the viewer sees the bottom of shell casings. Old Glory’s white stripes are an encaustic or waxy substance, upon which grayish-white faces of children are presented. As with the stars, a number of faces are replaced with the bottoms of shell casings. The most subtle and ultimately disconcerting component of the flag is its stripes: The six stripes that would normally be red consist of crayons—bordered by bullets.

Philippe Chambon continues to create visual spaces that are seemingly in constant motion. As he’s done on many other canvases, Chambon employs a limited number of deep, highly saturated and frequently muddied colors in “Reflection No. 34: ‘The Kiss.’” The artist applied purples, blues and greens to this 40-by-40-inch acrylic on canvas to create a merger of geometric and curved shapes. To enhance the dimensionality, Chambon outlines each shape or object with black paint. However, it’s his use of bright-white paint that makes the viewer’s eyes dance around the canvas. Surprisingly absent is the artist’s usual letter-like iconography.

Offering a contrast to the intensity of the works of Thompson and Chambon work is Alison Hunt Ballard’s woodblock relief print “Double Bond (Latere),” from her Trans Isomerism series. In this 30-by-22-inch work on paper with a mustard background, the artist shows two kneeling women with long black hair. Ballard presents one woman in a darker green-grey, while the second woman is presented in a lighter green-grey. A sense of connectedness is created by having each woman wrap her arms around the waist of the other. The message of connection is furthered by the depiction of the two, similarly shaped, overlapping heads. Inside each woman’s abdominal area sleeps a content, curled-up cat. Do these cats, presented inside a solid-red oval shape, represent wombs?

Bob Hoffmann’s 40-by-32-inch piece “Midcentury Modern” is separated from the less-successful pieces with a midcentury design thanks to its execution. Yes, “Midcentury Modern” contains all of the characteristics of the period (colors, geometric shapes); however, Hoffmann’s use of sewn fabric to develop and execute his creative intent makes the piece a unique addition. Beginning with a grid, the artist deconstructs the space with his use of a creamy-beige fabric. The deconstruction process results in a set of geometric forms, like rectangles, squares and trapezoids. Hoffmann completes his composition by inserting contrasting colored fabric into the open geometric shapes. While some spaces are filled with shades of the same color (deep blues, lime green), two complementary colors, such as orange and yellow, are used in others. Lastly, one space includes what seems like confetti with many of the colors frequently chosen by midcentury designers, architects and artists. The sewn-together pieces of fabric create a softness that is hard to achieve with paint.

The Artists Council Exhibition 2015 does indeed offer museum visitors an opportunity to see some excellent pieces created by local artists. However, it also includes a number of pieces that, in the eyes of some (myself included), aren’t worthy of the Palm Springs Art Museum. Check it out—and decide for yourself.

The Artists Council Exhibition 2015 is on display through Sunday, Dec. 6, at the Palm Springs Art Museum, located at 101 N. Museum Drive, in Palm Springs. The works are on sale, and 50 percent of the proceeds go toward the museum’s education programs. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; and noon to 8 p.m., Thursday. Admission prices vary. For more information, call 760-322-4800, or visit www.psmuseum.org.

Published in Visual Arts

After years of exploring places around the globe as a flight attendant, Charlie Ciali traded in his wings for a more earthy exploration: ceramics.

He was a ceramicist who produced collectable pieces before becoming a Midwest gallery owner. Upon his arrival in the desert, Ciali reinvented himself as an abstract portraiture painter before becoming a mixed-media artist and, later, a producer of fine-art prints and paintings.

The artist goes beyond exploring the intersection and integration of painting and printmaking—art forms frequently considered distinct and different. Ciali also incorporates his expertise as a ceramicist to create a fusion of creative techniques and aesthetics. Specifically, he exploits the unique contributions of each medium to offer the viewer a heightened sense of dimensionality, varied textures and a layering of colors.

“Right now, I find myself focusing on creating monotype prints, as well as encaustic (i.e. wax-based) paintings,” he said.

Ciali, at times, also incorporates resins into his encaustics and monotypes. Resins are essentially a type of epoxy that, when buffed to a high shine or finish, reflect and refract light, producing a greater sense of depth.

“Euclid,” an encaustic on board (right), typifies the artist’s fusion of monotype printmaking, encaustic painting and ceramics. Depending upon the lighting and the angle from which it is viewed, “Euclid” offers subtle changes in color and shading. To achieve this, Ciali applies encaustic paints in shades of highly saturated yellows, oranges and blues. By painting the bottom sections of the piece in rich blues, he adds a sense of height. The encaustics contribute an additional layer of textural depth to the already present dimensionality.

“Water,” a monotype with resin on board (below), is a wide piece; the eye constantly moves from one end of the print to the other. As with many of Ciali’s monoprints, there is a strong figurative element. Here, he presents the profile of a female head in shades of yellow, gold and white. The head seems to float in front of a red backdrop. As the viewer’s eyes follow along the width of the monotype, the imagery becomes increasingly less representational—in other words, it is more suggested than defined. At the far right, opposite the profile, is an intriguing, amorphous, cloud-like shape in bright whites, accentuated by blue-green lines and light gray highlights. Between the left and right borders are suggestive images of paper with Asian-style lettering, Sumi-like painting brushes and India-inspired architectural forms; they float in the background. By applying the resin, the artist amplifies the sense of depth, making the entire composition seem dreamlike.

This past spring, Ciali was elected president of the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Artists Council. He previously served as the Artists Council’s executive vice president for fundraising, and was previously on the city’s commissions for public arts and parks and recreation.

“Currently, about 60 percent of my time is involved with arts education.” Ciali said, “In conjunction with the Palm Springs Unified School District, I created programs to teach printmaking to students from grade 3 to 12.” For several years, he has mentored students at the Arts Institute of Palm Springs High School.

Ciali maintains a fully equipped studio where he teaches printmaking and encaustic methods nearly year-round. He is often invited to other arts venues around the country to teach workshops.

“The desire to learn and express one’s creative self is more important than chronological age,” Ciali said. “In fact, I frequently find myself learning from my adult students who are not academically trained artists.”

Locally, the artist’s work is on display at Archangel Gallery, located at 1103 N. Palm Canyon Drive (760-320-4795; archangelartcollective.com/a). For more information on the artist, visit www.charlieciali.com.

Published in Visual Arts