Richard Rigg, a wonderfully well mannered and willowy artist from Newcastle (UK) has been our guest here at AZ West for the last week while he works on a project “Inhabitant of the Watchtower” – a collaboration with CIRCA Projects that coincides with his exhibition at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. After working tirelessly all week to assemble the transmitter in the sweltering August heat, he finally headed out to the hottest and most remote edge of Wonder Valley to install – working quickly to get everything set up during the brief cooling sunset hours.
Yesterday we said goodbye to our awesome summer intern Lucas Wrench (shown shrouded in mystery in this photoshoot that we just did with one of the amazing blankets woven by Sheila Shanti for our fall show). Lucas was such a good sport about the heat and all of the crazy grunt work that had to go down at AZ West this summer – After wrapping things up here in Joshua Tree he has one more year of undergrad and then fantasizes about moving to Detroit. If anyone in Detroit is reading this let us know so we can put you in touch with Lucas.
Thank you so much for all of your hard work – we are going to miss you!
One of the the most interesting projects happening in connection with the studio right now is actually being executed by a group of weavers located in various locations across the country. Sheila Shanti, our head weaver who is based in Maine, has spent the last few months making countless samples to test out a huge array of options in color, fiber, and weaving technique.
By now I’ve accumulated an amazing library of test strips in all sorts of wools, cottons and linens. The final products will be at least four different series of “panels” – elemental forms that have the ability to slip between functional categories and social roles depending on subtle contextual shirts or overlaying value systems. Curious? More soon…
One of the long awaited amenties at AZ West has been our own movie screen – a plan that finally came to fruition this month! A while back when visiting USC to give a lecture, I met A.L.Steiner and mentioned that I would love an opportunity to see “Community Action Center” – her new film that she made in collaboration with A.K. Burns. This conversation ultimately ended up with her agreeing to screen the film at AZ West in connection with HDTS. And the heat was finally on to get a screen made. Chris Engman, artist and current USC MFA student stepped up to help engineer this endeavor, along with the help of Lucas Wrench – our totally unflappable and every helpful summer intern.
The screen itself is a pretty awesome piece of sculpture – set back in the private wash area behind our new encampment. In addition to CAC we also got to watch C.L.U.E. – a collaborative work that Steiner made with robbinschilds (I became completely obsessed with this film when I first saw it at the New Museum…) One other bit of cool trivia is that part of C.L.U.E. was filmed in Joshua Tree – bringing the work in full circle.
I went by TKs Shop this afternoon to check out a workstation that we just finished as part of a new commision. Its been a really fun project from the start, and a nice opportunity to work with marine ply (I usually work with A/C ply) and also to try out a new rounded corner mirror shape. There is something so satisfying about making truly functional objects. I also love the big loopy grain of fir plywood – and the way that it takes on a subtle relief when sanded. It reminds me a lot of the home craftsman ethic that was so predominant in our southern California garage-workshops when I was growing up.
I started gardening this year in metal livestock troughs (24 inches high to keep the animals out). Growing food in the desert has been both fun and challenging, with a steep learning curve that I’ll write more about later. But all that hard work made me realize how smart it is to take advantage of native food sources that are both free and readily available. One of my favorites is Palo Verde beans. You pick the pods when they are still fresh and green, blanche or boil like edamame and then eat the seeds. Or they are just as good fresh off the tree. I’ve also read that you can dry and store the beans and sprout them at other times in the year… Other really good edibles that we have discovered at AZ West are Mormon Tea, Mesquite and Chia.
For the last year we have been slowly replacing all of the customized Wagon Stations with new “stock” Wagon Stations that are available for people involved in activities at AZ West to stay in. And while expanding the Wagon Station encampment it also became time to address the never ceasing issue with wind. Even though four strong people can barely lift one of these units, our desert windstorms have managed to flip and smash them on an ongoing basis.
About two months ago TK engineered a new footing and a tie down system – along with fasteners on the hatch and back entry door. So far they have weathered at least two fairly fierce windstorms and nothing has flipped yet… fingers crossed!
I got a really nice note from Katherine Ball today – Katherine was last year’s resident on Indy Island, and she came to visit AZ West a few months ago, just in time to help put the finishing touches on the Encampment (more about that soon!) and to help demo Yucca Crater. (A brutal hot sweaty undertaking which she took on cheerfully and uncomplainingly)
Katherine likes to go on epic runs – and while out in the desert pioneered a new route around the rocky mountain next to AZ West. Today she sent a map and detailed description of her journey, which I’m about to try out this evening as I walk the dogs… (my disclaimer is that I’m walking not running, like Katherine was, and one of my dogs is a geriatric 16 year old, so we will see how far we make it on our first pass.)
Katherine’s instructions: HERE IS THE LOOP I RAN:
Go down your driveway like you are heading to the highway, into Joshua Tree.
1. Make a Left on the first dirt road that follows the powerlines and runs parallel to the highway.
2. Travel along it, bearing a slight Left when it forks (don’t go left at the cross).
3. Follow it to a car turnaround and head Left through a canyon (one of the first rocks has a bunch of Playboys behind it).
4. The canyon path will peak by a dirt road/wash by a house.
5. Go Right and snake your way through the rocks (10 – 20 minutes?)
6. There will be an opening with a lot of washes.
7. Go Left around the big rock with the science device/tower, follow the wash.
8. You will come to a dead end (less than 5 mi)
9. Climb up the boulders on the Left side.
10. Walk through wash with the rocks carved by boulders.
11. Go Left at the end/road (?) and cross by abandoned look out.
12. From the lookout, find a trail that is near it (forward) and runs parallel to a road. This trail will intersect the road on your Right and then the trail will branch off to the left and bring you to the backside of the canyon that connects to your wash. You will make a Left into your canyon and follow it to the Wagon Stations.
****It will be challenging to complete the loop on your first go. I suggest trying to make it to the lookout or dead end coming from both counterclockwise and clockwise, then connect them.
1. Head through your canyon.
2. It will veer left as it dissipates.
3. Find the trail that is on your Right and goes perpendicular.
4. The trail will take you to a road (within 1/5 mile).
5. Make a Right on the road and look for the abandoned lookout. There is a trail that goes there, or you can just aim for it.
6. The wash that connects to the dead end is approximately 1/3 mile. You will make a Right into the wash. I think there is a trail or road but I am not sure.