2008. Pastel on sandpaper. 9-5/8 x 10-1/2 in.
Saturday evening, after visiting the closing receptions at Gallery 62 and JTAG in Joshua Tree, we walked up the street to where a private reception was being held for Kim Stringfellow’s Jackrabbit Homestead installation at The Station. The work was commissioned for Desert X 2021 and was trailered up the grade from Palm Desert when that site-specific exhibition closed last month. The installation is a lovingly imagined recreation of the homestead of writer Catherine Venn Peterson, who wrote about her experience for Desert Magazine in 1950.
Kim has done extensive photography, research, and publication on the small-tract homestead movement, including multiple exhibitions such as at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles and her book Jackrabbit Homestead: Tracing the Small Tract Act in the Southern California Landscape, 1938-2008. (The book has finally been reissued and is available for purchase at The Station in Joshua Tree.)
I met Kim sort of inevitably in the 2000’s as we were both deeply interested in the homestead cabins, their origins, and their effects in and upon the desert landscape. Her work has been thoughtful, honest, and beautiful, and I’m proud to have been included in her JRHS project as, for example, part of the Jackrabbit Homestead audio tour and in this KCET Artbound segment, where I blithely blather in front of my studio on a witheringly hot afternoon where we had to take breaks to let the camera cool down.
I myself did a lot of creative work back then on the topic of the homesteads, including co-direction of the one-and-only Wonder Valley Homestead Cabin Festival in 2008 and a number of paintings. Yellow Cabin above, from 2008, proved to be the last I was to do for quite a while. But in 2015 I picked up sort of where I had left off, creating the deeply colored pastel collection Additional Dimensions: Disappearance and the Homesteads of the Mojave using pencil sketches I had created at that time, in the mid-2000’s.
It’s very possible those were the final works I’ll ever do of the homesteads. The derelict cabins that fascinated me truly are disappearing now, along with the peculiar homestead community where I found my place to be for the last 30 years. It took a very long time, but the great consuming maw of late-stage capitalism has found its way to even this blighty little edge-world.
But, in the meantime, it was great to see Kim at the reception, for real and in person. Over the covid time friends were in no way forgotten but did become unreal in a way. Now, when we see them again it’s, like, wham! They’re real, and alive! No longer missing, I guess you could say. A lot of things have been lost in the last year and a half, but not everything. I’m so happy to find some things are still with us.