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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

I’d never heard of Eventbrite or Brit + Co before a week or so ago. Turns out Eventbrite is an online events/calendar website, and Brit + Co is “an online media and e-commerce platform that provides tools to teach, inspire and enable creativity among women and girls” that its managers claim reach more than 5 million “creatively minded people” each month.

Well, I’ve now heard of these sites, because Eventbrite’s Lauren Busley, in a post published on Brit + Co’s website, came up with a rather surprising list that quickly made the social-media rounds among Coachella Valley-area art fans: Eventbrite named Palm Springs as the No. 1 Coolest City for Art Lovers in the USA.

Yes, really. Eventbrite supposedly “found out which U.S. cities have the highest proclivity for the arts looking at population, number of art events and amount of cash locals spent on art events” to make the determination. Hmm.

See the list for yourself, if you must, here.

On one hand, this conclusion is preposterous. I love Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley more than almost anyone, but is Palm Springs really a better art city than San Francisco (No. 3 on the list)? Seattle (No. 6)? Boston (No. 7)? Miami (No. 8)? Or freakin’ New York (not ranked)?

On the other hand … no, sorry, there is no other hand. This conclusion is simply preposterous. After all, Busley’s first sentence is this: “With beautiful warm weather year-round, some of the best art in Palm Springs is outdoors.” She must be unaware that until recently, city officials in Eventbrite’s No. 1 art city didn’t allow murals.

Having said all that, I understand how art-lovers are charmed by the fantastic art in Palm Springs and the rest of the Coachella Valley. We have great museums, delightful art-filled areas (like El Paseo, the Backstreet Art District and the Uptown Design District) and an abundance of fantastic artists who live here.

Last month at CVIndependent.com, and in the July print edition, the Independent featured two of those talented local artists.

Alex Koleszar and Peggy Vermeer, in many ways, couldn’t be more different. Koleszar is a former consultant who gave up his business to become a painter, and who moved to Palm Springs for a new start after his partner died due to cancer; Vermeer is an assemblage artist and trailblazing art teacher who has been in the Coachella Valley for decades—and who’s still going strong at 89 years of age.

However, in one very important way, Koleszar and Vermeer are quite similar (beyond the obvious fact that they’re both artists): They both have an intense passion for what they do.

No, Palm Springs is not really the No. 1 Coolest City for Art Lovers in the USA. It’s not even close. But due to the work of passionate locals like Koleszar and Vermeer, we’re getting there.

Published in Editor's Note

Meet artist Alex Koleszar, who became a full-time desert resident about two years ago, several years after the death of his partner, Dr. Scott Hitt

Koleszar is a Michigan native who, upon completing his undergraduate work at University of Arizona, moved with Hitt to Los Angeles. There, Koleszar completed his MBA, and founded a highly successful consulting firm.

However, he eventually decided that his consulting business was not satisfying enough for him. That revelation, as well as a series of challenges and hardships in his life, led to him becoming an artist.

Much of our conversation occurred in the artist’s Palm Springs studio, where he spoke candidly about his art, and the challenges he faces with this second career.

When did you first begin to paint?

Actually, I began to paint twice. Between ages of 11 and 14, I completed some 30 canvases, several of which were hung in my hometown’s City Hall.

However, being bullied by other boys in school effectively eliminated my interest in painting: I was called the “creative faggot.” To the bullies, artists were not masculine. For many years, I suppressed my creative self. That means playing sports and, in Michigan, going hunting. More than eliminating my desire to paint, these experiences did a number on my sexuality: I became increasingly conflicted about my being gay.

You have mentioned that while in Arizona, you came out and met Scott. Ultimately, you moved to Los Angeles where you completed your MBA. You were living the gay American dream: living in West L.A., with a handsome partner, both having highly successful careers and recognition in your community? Why throw all that away?

This was the time when the AIDS epidemic was still escalating. The combination of watching people close to me die from AIDS and being in a marginally creative career produced my midlife crisis; however, mine was on steroids. I found myself living in a bubble: helplessness, loss, death and tragedy were my norm.

Existential questions, like “What I am doing?” and “Why am I doing it?” emerged. Unlike Scott, a physician, who actually helped his patients, I thought myself powerless and confronted by two additional questions: “Who do I really want to be?” and “For what do I want to be remembered?” No longer was being a highly successful entrepreneur who writes highly praised computer manuals enough!

Ultimately, I closed my consulting practice. Realizing that I required formal training, I began working with two successful Los Angeles artists. One taught me painting; the other mentored in me drawing. They taught me how to engage my creative, left brain, without forgoing my analytic self. For example, I learned how geometry, something highly analytic, is at the core of many successful canvases. Today, I still return to the classical principles they taught me.

Was your painting simply cathartic? Did you show your work? Was there any recognition?

It was all of the above. And, yes, my work then and still today reflects my working through multiple losses. Concurrently, my work was shown and received recognition.

My early works clearly reflected the AIDS crisis. Despite, or perhaps because of, the way I incorporated the narrative into my painting, it came to the attention of a curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)’s art rental and sales gallery. She selected my painting “Returning Home” to be one of two pieces included in the museum’s annual observance of (AIDS losses) “A Day Without Art,” a 10-day exhibition.

Despite my reticence to show/sell any paintings until I had a cohesive body of work, I accepted the curator’s request. … In addition to being tagged as a “new and emerging artist,” I was invited to participate in the Florence (Italy) Biennial. During this highly productive time, a number of art collectors from around the country bought my paintings.

Amidst this burgeoning career, Scott, my partner of 16 years, was diagnosed with cancer. His incredible ability to move forward in the face of adversity fortified my decision to continue as a painter.

Why did you leave L.A.?

After Scott’s death (in 2007), it became apparent that a serious change of scenery was required. I had always liked Palm Springs, and it seemed like a place that was gay-friendly, and I could once again focus on my art. 

Is there anything unique in your style today?

Actually, there is. Before putting brush to canvas, many painters create grids and/or create a sketch of their future painting. In contrast, for many of my paintings, I create a mental image of what I want to paint. Everything on the canvas reflects my mental picture.

What themes and influences affect your paintings?

My paintings then and today contain, in their own way, social and political messages. Political correctness is not my style.

I find myself immensely influenced by the surrealists, especially Dali and Miró. Dali, in particular, never seemed to worry about controversy. My painting “Night of Ravens” (right) embodies a social message with hyperrealism and surrealism.

While I continue to explore hyperrealism and surrealism, I am moving in some new directions. For example, I’ve been creating diptychs of butterflies. With my butterflies, the viewer sees my idealization of the wings of one particular butterfly species. There is one wing on each panel. The innate balance and symmetry of wings make them an amazing subject. This is especially true with my diptych “Spritual Catharsis” (below).

My series dealing with musical notes is far more labor-intensive and exhilarating. Because I work in layers, I must work quickly; however, there is little room for error. The process is exacting. …

Having always been fascinated by the moon, I just started a series of oversized canvases that will depict the moon in each of its unique permutations. … I have already finished two canvases and stretched the canvas for the next painting. I foresee painting full moons, blood moons, lunar eclipses, etc.

During my fall show at Archangel Gallery, I expect the “Moon Series” to be the focal point.

What challenges lie ahead?

Actually, my painting is moving ahead quite well. Right now, I dedicate four to six hours a day in the studio.  Also, I recently returned from a short trip to L.A. and found my creative self recharged.

When I hit a slump, I recognize that those periods are part of the creative process. Like the best artists, I force myself to work, even if it is doing basic drawing and painting studies to improve my technique.

My major challenges are interrelated: artistic purity and commercialism. Like most every artist, I don’t want to compromise on my aesthetic. At the same time, my MBA brain tells me that I need to make a living as a practicing artist.

Right now, I am fortunate. I can and do invest totally in my art. With my strength, focus and creativity, I will make it happen.

For more information, visit AJKART.ME. The author of this piece, Victor Barocas, has also shown his work at Archangel Gallery. Below: "Spiritual Catharsis."

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

Student and professional artists came out to the parking area behind "Forever Marilyn" in downtown Palm Springs on Saturday, March 16, for the Third Annual Palm Springs Chalk Art Festival.

Chosen subjects ranged from turtles to angels to a image from Oz the Great and Powerful. Students competed for a $250 first-place prize, while the pros (who, unlike the students, had to pay an entry fee and/or get sponsors) competed for prizes topping out at $500.

The event was presented by the Palm Springs Sun-up Rotary Club and the City of Palm Springs Public Arts Commission. Proceeds were slated to go to the Rotary Foundation, Palm Springs Unified School District art education, and the Rotary's PolioPlus program.

The Independent stopped by to take some pictures about an hour before judging was slated to begin. Scroll down to see our pictures (please ignore the photographers's shadow in one of them; he had a brain malfunction in the 90-plus-degree heat).

Published in Snapshot