CVIndependent

Wed08152018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Stephen Berger

Do you remember what it was like to play in the mud? Well, Silica Studios in Palm Springs has elevated this cherished childhood memory into an artistic experience.

For 15 years, owners Daric Harvie, Dona Vanden Heuvel, and Tim McMullen have been providing professional studio space and supplies to Coachella Valley ceramic artists. It all started when longtime friends Harvie and McMullen came to the valley to take ceramic classes at College of the Desert. There, they met Vanden Heuvel—and the three of them determined there was a demand for a professional studio space where artists could have access to equipment and supplies that were otherwise available to only students in a ceramics program.

They decided a membership program made the most financial sense and opened Silica Studios in 2003. Their decisions paid off: Silica Studios allows students, novices and professional artists to grow and develop their work outside of a classroom. Still in the original location on Williams Road—near Sunny Dunes Road and Gene Autry Trail, the studios have doubled in size since opening, to approximately 3,000 square feet.

Daric Harvie gave me a tour of the facilities. At the entry, a small but impressive gallery introduces creative possibilities available through the studio door. Beyond that door are two large high-ceiling rooms. One room is for throwing clay on a potter's wheel; the other is dedicated to hand-building. Light pours in from the industrial-sized garage doors thrown open to the desert sky. Despite an outside temperature beyond 100 degrees during my visit, the space was cool and comfortable. It's meticulously organized and very clean—despite all of the, you know, mud. It felt very laid-back.

Through the garage doors are two large concrete courtyards with tables, potter's wheels and a collection of kilns that would make any ceramic artist envious. I've had my own ceramic studios over the years; they always were in a basement, dark and cramped, so I was obviously excited by the atmosphere, the space, the coolness of the air and the fragrance of the wet clay.

“Clay is such a primal experience,” Harvie said.

“I think I need to come here and make something,” I replied.

Harvie told me that he and his co-owners have tried to make a safe place to create—one that is encouraging and filled with positive energy. The focus is on high-fire stoneware and porcelain, but the studio can also fire lower-temperature terra cottas. The studio has begun producing custom dinnerware in limited productions for chef-oriented restaurants in the area. Studio artists can also do commissions for local designers.

“Is that a reduction kiln that I see out there?” I asked. Reduction firing requires a gas-fired kiln with the ability to burn off all the oxygen inside so that the glazes are chemically altered. It produces interesting glazes that cannot be achieved any other way—and it is something I could never do in a basement.

“Yes, it is” Harvie replied. “We also have electric kilns and a raku kiln in the back.”

Raku is a Japanese technique of removing a piece of ceramic from the kiln, while it is still red-hot, with a pair of tongs. It is then thrown into wood chips or other combustible materials. The burning wood chips produce iridescence and velvety textures on the clay. It's the most theatrical of firings.

Harvie said Silica Studios is home to between 25 and 45 members; it varies with the season. For a monthly fee, members have access to the studios during all business hours, and also receive a discount on workshops and firings; the latter are priced by how much space someone uses in the kiln. Members are also invited to participate in shows and sales—one during the Christmas season, and the other in the spring. Nonmembers can also use the studios for a daily fee and can bring in pieces to be fired. During the winter season, a four-session introduction to working with clay is offered for beginners. There are also kids’ classes, workshops, and instruction for both individuals and groups. Clay and ceramic tools are on sale, as are pieces by member artists in the gallery. The gallery is open to the public during all business hours.

Silica Studios is located at 752 S. Williams Road, in Palm Springs. During the summer, Silica is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday. For more information, call 760-325-7007, or visit www.silicastudios.com.

Juan-Manuel Alonso is a familiar figure at Palm Springs art events. He is tall and handsome, usually with shoulder-length silver hair and a beard. He dresses colorfully and is quick with an interesting story or witty remark.

I spent some time with him recently observing his newest creation: a new outdoor mural at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs.

Juan was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1952. Although his family moved to New York City in 1960 after the Cuban Revolution, he retains vivid memories of his childhood in Cuba: The colors, sounds and tastes of those early years are evident in his paintings today. (He pointed out that the memories may only be a personal mythology, but that doesn’t take away from their relevance and power to inspire him.) Alonso was particularly drawn to the Afro-Cuban music and religious ceremonies in his neighborhood. His mother said that whenever she wanted to find him, she would just listen for the drums and follow the sound: Juan would always be there, dancing.

Alonso talked about growing up in New York City. He loved going by himself to Radio City Music Hall, and designing dresses made out of Play-Doh for his toy soldiers. He attended Erasmus Hall High School and later the City College of New York. He decided he wanted to be a fashion designer.

“The arts have always been something I enjoy,” he said.

After studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology under Donald Claflin, designer for Tiffany and Co., Alonso worked for Nino Cerruti and Willi Smith, and had an exclusive contract to design his own label for Bergdorf Goodman. He also did freelance design work in San Francisco for several years while under contract to Bergdorf since he was not allowed to work anywhere else in New York.

Alonso started painting in 1995. Around that time, he moved to Miami to care for his parents. He opened his own showroom for art, upholstery and fashion in Bal Harbour—but after a couple of years, he was forced to give it up for health reasons. The workload and stress of designing six collections a year proved to be too much.

When his parents passed away, he decided to move to Palm Springs and concentrate on his painting. It's a decision he said he has never regretted.

“Art opened my eyes, to be aware of the incredible energy that flourishes here,” Alonso said. “It has improved my health, and I have become very creative and developed my own style.”

Alonso has had numerous shows and successes in the area, but is not currently associated with a local gallery. This past December, he broke into the red-hot Miami art market with an exhibition at Art Basel. He will be spending the summer in Santa Fe, N.M.

“My inspiration comes from the memories of where I was born,” Alonso said. “I’m also very inspired by the period of time from 1890 to 1930 when the world was revolutionized and brought into the modern era. I’m inspired by Josephine Baker”—the African-American dancer who became wildly famous after dancing in Paris in 1925. “She was so liberated and had a vision of the future that is still to be realized.

“In my own work, I want to have a subconscious message—something of freedom, a message of liberation. I paint lips as hearts, because finally, they are doing no evil to each other. It’s about love and openness. It’s a very strong message. I’m sending out positivity to counter all the negativity.”

Alonso recently dealt with another serious health crisis, and during his recovery, he was inspired to give something back to the community. He said he approached the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, at 1301 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, and asked if he could donate a mural in a restroom there to commemorate the upcoming 30th anniversary of Keith Haring's mural in the men’s restroom of the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City. The Center responded that they wanted to commission an exterior mural on the staircase leading to the third-floor Center.

I’ve been watching the progress of this large-scale painting and am deeply touched by both the subject matter and Alonso’s message of positivity. For those of us who survived the AIDS crisis, it is especially poignant.

The mural covers the two curved walls of the staircases. Between the first and second floor is Alonso’s depiction of what Palm Springs means to him. There are mountains and a deep blue sky, as well as the bell tower of Desert Regional Medical Center rising above palm trees and buildings, complete with swimming pools. One can also spot the tram and multitudes of windows painted in the colors of the rainbow flag. Everything is rendered in a joyful and whimsical style.

As one ascends the stairs, the wall between the second and third floors reveals five life-size dancers floating in the same deep-blue sky, one for each of the letters L, B, G, T and Q.

“These dancers represent all of those who are only with us in spirit now,” Alonso said.

The wall rises up to an open ceiling where the blue of the paint exactly matches the sky above. The dancers are surrounded by doves of peace—and they look like they could float upward to dance across the real sky. It’s a reminder that although many loved ones might no longer be in our physical presence, our memories keep them alive, and they are still watching over us.

For more information, visit www.alonso-art.com.

Sir Winston Churchill is an iconic giant. He was a renowned statesman, a two-time British prime minister, a Nobel Prize-winning author—and perhaps even a savior of Western civilization.

However, most people don’t know he was also a painter—and few have had the chance to see his art. This makes The Paintings of Sir Winston Churchill, on display at Heather James Fine Art in Palm Desert through May 30, a rare treat.

Churchill (Nov. 30, 1874-Jan. 24, 1965) was born into one of the great aristocratic families of Great Britain, the Spencers; another Spencer was Princess Diana. His father was a politician, and his mother was an American-born British socialite. Winston joined the British Army and was elected to Parliament in 1900.

Churchill began painting in 1915, after stepping down as the political head of the British Navy. He was a self-taught artist, but because of his stature, he was able to befriend many of the top British painters. He was always modest about his work—but successfully entered several competitions under assumed names.

He painted in the Impressionist style and preferred to paint outdoors. It’s estimated that he produced about 500 paintings over a 40-year period. He never sold his work and only gave paintings as gifts to his friends and relatives. Most of his work remains in the museum at Chartwell. There are a few pieces in other museums, with the remaining paintings in private collections, including those of Queen Elizabeth II, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

The value of Churchill’s art has risen dramatically over the years. A painting originally given to Clare Booth Luce, “Chartwell Landscape With Sheep,” sold for 1 million pounds in 2007.

“Although painting was just a hobby, Churchill learned new skills which he used in his political and diplomatic life,” said Duncan Sandys, a great-grandson of Winston Churchill, according to a Heather James news release. “It gave him a sanctuary during adversity and, I believe, made him more effective in 1940 as Hitler prepared to invade Britain.”

The 11 paintings on display at Heather James Fine Art are from the 1920s to 1940s, from the collection of the late Julian Sandys, Churchill’s eldest grandchild and Duncan’s father.

I asked Chip Tom, a curator for Heather James Fine Art, how the exhibit came to the valley.

“The exhibit came about from a local desert person introducing us to the Churchill family,” Tom said. “We have been working with the family for about 6 months in trying to organize bringing the paintings to the desert.”

Tom said the response to the exhibit has been fantastic. “Part of the mission of Heather James Fine Art is to bring world-class, museum-quality work to the desert communities and make it available to the public,” he said. “This is for everyone in the valley. We’re not a museum, but you can come and enjoy great art, and there is no entry fee.”

I made several visits to the gallery to spend some time with these paintings. The hand of the artist is palpable; they are very honest works. There are areas that speak of technical brilliance and artistic insight, but Churchill doesn’t try to hide the struggle and frustration when he didn’t get it quite right. As an amateur painter myself, I found this encouraging.

There are nine landscapes, a seascape and a still life in the collection. “On the Var,” from 1935, is the largest and most polished. It reads as a tribute to Cezanne—but there is an area in the foreground, depicting a small stream, that was obviously problematic for Churchill. In “Lake Near Breccles in Autumn,” also painted in the 1930s, he had no such problem: The surface and reflections of the water are rendered in confident and fluid brushstrokes reminiscent of Monet’s waterlilies.

We will never know exactly how painting influenced Churchill’s role as a statesman, leader and writer. However, we do know painting was important enough to him that once he picked up a brush, he never traveled without his paint box, canvases and easel.

The exhibit The Paintings of Sir William Churchill is on display through Wednesday, May 30, at Heather James Fine Art, 45188 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert. For more information, call 760-346-8926, or visit www.heatherjames.com.

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/.

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.

Times are tough for community-oriented arts programs.

Despite record-setting prices for art at auctions, funding for public art and education is evaporating—or has already dried up. School districts have decreased course offerings in art, music and the humanities. As a result, to some art-lovers, the future appears bleak.

Enter the CREATE Center for the Arts. A year ago, the center opened its doors in a converted thrift store on Highway 111 in Palm Desert, and the 12 months since have been marked by accomplishment, tragedy and a dogged determination to survive.

The CREATE Center’s mission statement, “to create community enrichment through the arts,” is epitomized by founder and director Debra Ann Mumm. I’m a relative newcomer to the valley arts world, and as I’ve talked to local gallery owners, artists and museum representatives, one name kept coming up: I was told, “You have to meet Debra.”

I wanted to learn more about the CREATE Center and the woman who is the driving force behind it. I decided to volunteer there for a week and see what was going on for myself.

When I met Mumm, I was immediately swept up in her enthusiasm. She has big plans—really big plans: She envisions a multistory building serving the needs of artists, performers and designers by providing education, studio space, exhibitions and event space—available to everyone in the Coachella Valley.

“I want to make something that lasts—a permanent art center, something that increases accessibility,” she said.

Mumm described herself as a creative child. She majored in film and theater. Her first job was delivering blueprints—although the company also sold some art supplies. Later, a course at College of the Desert and interactions with local artists convinced her there was a need for a local art-supply store. She opened Venus Art Supply in Palm Desert, and started some art classes as a way to sell more paint. That led to sponsoring struggling artists and providing low-cost studio space. She’s received numerous awards and honors for her contributions to the arts community over the past 25 years, and the CREATE Center is the culmination of her history and core belief that art changes lives.

The center provides workshops and weekly classes. Low-cost studio space and equipment is available. Local artists can exhibit their work in both juried and non-juried gallery shows. Free and low-cost youth programs offer art education for kids 5 years old and up.

In its first year, the CREATE Center has made a big impression—but along with the recognition has come heartache.

On my first day of volunteering, I was asked to take down the memorial exhibition of works by Susan Smith Evans, and wrap the works for storage. Susan was a popular teacher at the College of the Desert, and a prolific painter and printmaker; she was also one of the founding board members of the CREATE Center. She was killed last March in an accident at her home, within months of the center’s opening.

Her husband, Ron Evans, a ceramics teacher at College of the Desert, asked the CREATE Center to be the permanent home for his wife’s art. He died on Nov. 30.

I talked with Michele Ohanesian, an instructor at the center, about the highs and lows of the first year. Susan Smith Evans was her first art teacher in college, and Ohanesian said Smith Evans was her inspiration to become a professional artist. As for the highlights, Ohanesian said the center’s energy—including people just walking in the door to ask what was going on—was the best thing about the it.

Things happen quickly at the center—and change is constant. Two days after my last volunteer shift, I had this story all planned out when I got a text from Debra Ann Mumm: “We’re moving tomorrow.”

A new space had become available. It was less expensive—a critical consideration for a fledgling nonprofit. It also allowed the center to move its private studios into the same location as the classes and exhibitions. This, too, saved money, and would benefit both the professional artists and the students by having them in the same space.

Mumm had big plans for the space, she said. Her enthusiasm caught me. I returned the next afternoon to help pack for a couple hours.

The CREATE Center for the Arts is located at 73733 Fred Waring Drive, No. 106, in Palm Desert. The center will hold a first-anniversary celebration from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 13. For more information, call 760-834-8318, or visit www.createcenterforthearts.com.

Mark your calendars: The seventh annual Cathedral City Home Tour of Artists’ and Historic Homes will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 11. The event, sponsored by the Agnes Pelton Society, this year will show off five historic artists’ homes in the Cathedral City Cove.

The centerpiece of this year’s home tour is the low, rambling cinderblock structure on F Street in Cathedral City Cove, designed and built by Agnes Pelton in 1939.

Pelton (1881-1961) came to the desert for isolation and to live a more spiritual life. At the time, the area was considered remote, and she lived and worked in the house for 20 years. During that time, she produced paintings that sought to capture a visual representation of the meaning of life.

Financial hardships forced her to sell her beloved home and studio in 1960. She died six months later in a small cottage on C Street.

Pelton is celebrated for her exquisite “plein air” desert landscapes featuring the Coachella Valley, as well as her important abstract masterworks. The landscapes paid the bills (at least until the end), but her abstracts revealed her soul.

She is invariably compared to contemporary Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986). In fact, the two women share some striking similarities. Both Pelton and O’Keeffe studied painting with Arthur Wesley Dow in New York. They were both inspired by nature, but each took that inspiration beyond classic landscape painting. Their work was exhibited in the seminal New York City Armory Show of 1913 that introduced Picasso, Duchamp and Kandinsky to America. Both of them visited Southwestern deserts at the invitation of Mabel Dodge Luhan, legendary patron of the arts in Taos, N.M. They both produced evocative paintings of their desert environments.

However, there are important differences between the artists. O’Keeffe’s move to New Mexico launched her into fame, while Pelton’s choice to settle in what would become Cathedral City relegated her to obscurity. O’Keeffe sought to force a new vision of reality on viewers with her over-scale and highly erotic paintings of flowers, while Pelton’s abstract work focused on the spiritual.

“She was ahead of her time in her conception of spirituality, life’s purpose, and the visual representation of it all,” Pelton scholar Nancy Strow Sheley once told Palm Springs Life.

Pelton believed in astrology and numerology, and she practiced a type of fire yoga called Agni. Her transcendental paintings are full of dream landscapes, glowing shapes and feathery fountains of light. Pelton is quoted as saying, “Life is really all light, you know.”

The Phoenix Museum of Art is currently organizing a retrospective of her work. The first major exhibit of her paintings in 23 years, Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist, will include works from 1910 to 1961. Approximately 40 to 45 of her paintings will be borrowed from private collections, museums and galleries for the exhibition, which is slated to open at the Palm Springs Art Museum in the spring of 2019 before touring the country, including a stop at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

The home tour will also include a home on Chuperosa Lane, adjacent to the Pelton home and studio. Along its walls are murals that have been created by desert artists. One of them depicts 10 of the artists who lived, painted and taught in the thriving art colony of Cathedral City from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Live music will be provided throughout the day by students and neighborhood musicians. Local desert artists will display their works under canopies, and dance and spoken-word performances are planned.

Tickets are $20; children younger than 12 are admitted for free. For tickets or more information, call 760-459-3564, or visit agnespeltonsociety.com.

There are many adjectives that could apply to Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art 1954-1969, an exhibit currently at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Historic. Groundbreaking. Educational. Mesmerizing.

In the end, however, the most important thing is this: The exhibit, touted as the first in-depth examination of the role played by mid-century South American artists in kinetic art, is a whole lot of interactive fun.

Things move and transform. They shimmer and beguile. The viewer is an essential part of the artwork itself.

Kinetic art is divided into two categories. The first is active, where the art itself is animated by electric motors, wind, magnets or light. (A posting warns that some of the flashing lights may cause seizures in persons with a certain kind of epilepsy.) The second is passive, in which the transformation is dependent on the movement of the viewer themself. This exhibit contains examples of both.

I visited the exhibit on a recent Thursday evening—when admission is free to all. As I entered the museum’s central court, a black hole of an entry beckoned to the crowd. In it, two brilliant red diamonds shimmered and teased. Moving toward them caused the shapes to shift and adjust. As people passed between the diamonds, new illusions were created. A textbook example of passive kinetic art was on display.

Just beyond were artworks with mirrors, slowly turning columns of acrylic, and boxes that flashed lights in different shapes and colors—active kinetic art. The exhibit was already quite educational—but the fun was just beginning. My impression: Kinetic art is the rollercoaster in the amusement park of modern art.

There were different rooms, some light, some dark. In one area were paintings that changed color and design as one walked past them. The “Chromosaturation” chambers by Carlos Cruz-Diez, 1965/2010, invited the viewer to travel through three entirely white spaces illuminated by either blue, red or green saturated light.

“La Ciudad Hidroespacial (Spacial City),” 1946-1972, by Gyula Kosice, depicts the artist’s futuristic vision of our planet—completely covered by water, with floating cities of glass and light suspended above the all-encompassing ocean. People could travel between the cities, but never return to the drowned surface of the Earth.

The exhibit is brilliantly curated by Dan Cameron, whose resume includes a lengthy stint as senior curator of the New Museum in New York City, co-curator of the Taipei Biennial, and the idea man behind Prospect New Orleans.

Be sure to allow time to wander and play among the interactive artworks. Much of the active kinetic artworks are on timers, because the delicate mechanisms are now 50 years old or beyond. They turn on for 15- or 20-minute periods and then shut down for a rest period. You’ll want to go back and forth to see all of them functioning.

Kinetic art is widely regarded as a European movement that began with the 1955 Paris exhibition Le Mouvement. It has been wildly popular throughout the world, but for some reason never caught on that much in the United States. One of the goals of this exhibit is to bring attention to the art—and dispel the myth that kinetic art was solely a European invention.

“Kinetic art emerged in Europe in the early 20th century, with its progenitors employing light, space and motion to create an ethereal, almost sensuous experience for the viewer,” said Elizabeth Armstrong, the Palm Springs Art Museum’s executive director, in a press release. “This exhibition serves as an introduction to the Latin American artists who played critical roles in the movement, while simultaneously providing a curatorial case for kinetic art as an important medium.”

Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969 is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an exploration of “Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles.” Supported by grants from the Getty Foundation, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is taking place January 2018 at more than 70 places across Southern California. 

For more information on Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969, including museum hours and admission prices, call 760-322-4800, or visit www.psmuseum.org.

Stephen Berger has been both a painter and ceramic tile artist. He spent his career in fashion and design in New York City and Chicago. He currently lives in Palm Springs and is completing his first novel.