Eric Merrell at La Quinta Museum, Headstone for Christina Lillian, Farewell to Kathi Hilton, Agnes’ Dead Reckoning and more


Eric Merrell is broadcast widely in the West, but soon you’ll have the rare opportunity to see 35 works of The Desert Master right here in Coachella Valley. Merrell completed the series of paintings – showing the ‘wonder and strength’ of the desert landscape – during an artist residency in 2019 in Mojave National Reserve. The results will be exhibited in a personal exhibition at the Quinta Museum in February. That same month, Merrell’s work can be seen at The Masters of the Autry Museum from the American West Pin up.

Eric Merrell, Alignment

During his two decades in the wilderness exploring representation and abstraction, Merrell achieved the sublime. A French writer described this exalted aesthetic as “a wonder that grabs, hits and makes you feel”. Come and be seized at La Quinta, from February 8 to May 21, 2022.

A tombstone for Christina Lillian

The leader of the glamorous arts colony Emma Christina Lillian brought a bohemian flair to Cathedral City. But when he died in 1978, his grave was marked only by an impersonal metal plaque. (Lillian was the founder of Sven-ska Colony and a close friend of Agnes Pelton.) His neighbors and relatives in Lindsborg, Kansas, have recently started talking. “They said it was a real shame she never had a suitable stone,” said Kathy shogren, Lillian’s little niece. Shogren lives on the family farm outside Lindsborg.

Led by Shogren, the resourceful people of Lindsborg set to work to give Christina a place in the Lillian family land. “I chose the color of the stone because it reminded me of the colors of the desert that she loved so much,” says Shogren. “The calla lily is one of my favorite flowers, plus Lillian in Swedish means lis.

The Lillian Family Marker in Lindsborg, Kansas. Photos by Kathy Shogren.

“The marker is nothing fancy,” she adds, “but I don’t think Aunt Emma would want a big task or stand out from her beloved family. She was very humble and never spoke of herself. She was so interested in the crops my dad planted, and she loved driving five mph in his van, looking at the farm and the irrigation.

Christina Lillian’s new marker was installed on April 19, 2021 at Elmwood Cemetery in Lindsborg, Kansas. Right after the mud was smoothed out, an April snowfall paid a low-key tribute to the Legend of Lindsborg.

Sam Hyde Harris sells the South Pacific

One of the regular guests at Christina’s Lillian’s Cathedral City Refuge was the famous landscaper Sam hyde harris. Harris was the unofficial mayor of Artists’ Alley in Alhambra, where he spent time with Clyde Forsythe and Norman Rockwell. In a show at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente, Maurine St. Gaudens and Joseph morsman highlight a little-known side of Harris ‘work: her business campaigns for the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Santa Fe Railroads. When Gaudens was enlisted to catalog Harris’ estate, she discovered the stash of posters from railroad in a storage area under a staircase. The show highlights Harris’ important contribution to 20e the advertising of the century, as well as the endless allure of the railroads and the West.

Sam Hyde Harris, See the unusual is visible until February 27, 2022. The Casa Romantica center also offers Paint like Sam Hyde Harris course during the exhibition.

Sam Hyde Harris, Seeing the Unusual: Sam Hyde Harris’ Historic Collection Opens at Casa Romantica This Fall

Santa F̩ РGrand Canyon. Commercial advertisement for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company, 1930, by Sam Hyde Harris. Courtesy of Maurine St. Gaudens.

The esteem of Agnes Pelton

Christina Lillian’s famous friend Agnes Pelton has now completed her triumphant national tour; scholars and critics are silent. In the calm after the frenzy, here is a new theory from one of Agnes’ current neighbors, Denise Croix. While the late art historian Michael zakian Noted Pelton’s attraction to celestial bodies, Cross goes further by proposing that Pelton had formal knowledge of astronomy and was drawn to Cathedral City by its dark desert sky. Cross assumes that the artist first encountered the cosmos on ocean crossings from Europe when she was a child. The theory depends on knowing the night sky as Agnes would see it, from a perch just up the street from Agnes’ house. Denise Cross writes:

There are two paintings that show his knowledge of planets and stars. Orbits shows exactly how all of the represented planets move relative to each other throughout the year, not in unison. Sometimes there is a convergence of two or three with the moon, never six or seven. The other painting is untitled (1931). There is the brilliant planet Venus in the winter sky aka the Star of Bethlehem and there is the Christmas goose under the snow-capped mountain peaks.

I’ve never investigated in previous years, it happened – when Venus and Jupiter line up to be this bright – but it happened last year. Imagine being used to crossing the Atlantic back in the days when ships weren’t lit like the Hilton and didn’t have GPS. It is dark and beautiful there. I can imagine that Agnes – always the curious child at any age – asked a lot of questions. I think it was the dark, clear sky that called her here in Cathedral City, not the terrain. “Hail San Jacinto,” she wrote. Living on this side of the mountain and just below, we know that Agnes had a knowledge of celestial navigation, esteem, the foghorns of ships, and the foghorns of lighthouses – what it feels like to depend on from them and that sense of security that those sounds provide until you finally see their light.

Agnes Pelton, Orbits. 1934

Remember Kathi Hilton

Desert artist and former resident of 29 Palms Kathi garvin hilton passed away October 7, 2021. Kathi was born in a Mecca doctor’s office in 1939 and spent her early years hanging out in Hilton’s gem store at Valerie Jean Corners in Thermal. She learned the palette knife technique from her famous and flamboyant father, John hilton. Art dealer Dan Rohlfing and I called her every now and then with a question about the art of the Hilton era. She was invariably gentle and serene, perhaps because of her strong faith. She was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 29 Palms in 1963.

Dan Rohlfing knew Kathi well, as you can see in this tribute to Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery bulletin:

Kathi Hilton, center, with Ute Mark, left, and Mary Jane Binge in 29 Palms, 1970.

“Smokie” George Frederick Sketch found

Tom moore responded to Rebecca Ragan Akinsarticle on “Smokie” George Frederick with his own sketch of Smokie – a portrait of his grandfather, Chuck Moore. “He lived in Omaha and worked for Union Pacific, and family tradition has it that he advertised the inaugural train ride from Hollywood to the Sun Valley Ski Resort, which UP owned,” Tom Moore writes about his grandfather. “In addition to his love of the Wild West and driving the lineup, he also had a wonderful voice and loved to perform in community theater musicals. Guess you could call him the “singing cowboy” if it wasn’t already!

“Smokie isn’t the only character from the Wild West that my grandfather befriended. He also briefly appears as a minor character in a Louis L’Amour book, as a traveling judge named Charles P Moore who quickly bites the dust.

Article by Rebecca Ragan Akins:

Michael Moore: Visions of Smoke Creek

While in the Smoke Creek Desert in Nevada for several months a year, Michael moore wakes up every morning, walks outside and paints the ever-changing playa. Everyday. Season after season. This decades-long dive into a specific landscape is the antithesis of the currently popular Parachute Desert Art School (as exemplified by Desert X), in which artists spend a weekend and explain the desert to us. You can see Moore’s lifelong contemplation style in Visions of Smoke Creek to Nevada Museum of Art now until July 10, 2022. If you are in Oakland before January 11, 2022, you can also see his paintings on the windows of the Postponement project at 214 Harrison Street.

Michael S. Moore, Enigma of the Sheldon Range


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