Wanderings & observations


ON A FEW ACRES OF DESOLATE CALIFORNIA DESERT, a man named Noah Purifoy settled in and went about making art for the final fifteen years of his life.  His outpouring of sculptures, many of which are big enough to walk through, are now an outdoor museum. After I managed to locate the museum at the end of a narrow track off an obscure dirt road in the Mohave desert, I was so taken by the creative energy pulsing through the site that I could barely hold still to take proper photographs.

Below is part of a large sculpture made from discarded objects, Purifoy’s material of choice. In this piece, fabric has been cut, torn, glued and stapled to a wood surface, then subjected to at least ten years of desert sun and wind.

Walking around and into the installations moved me to look carefully and think differently about materials and their relationships. Purifoy’s spirit is catching. I wanted to jump in and join him, even though he’s been gone for ten years.  Just to see what would emerge, I cropped the photo and converted it to black and white, revealing expressive folds and torn edges in the cloth that might evoke a landscape of thwarted desire. Or something else entirely – this is art that invites participation.  At the top of the page is my reflection in part of another sculpture which involves a broken mirror and glass on the ground, enclosed in a complex, room-like structure. Soon I’ll post more photos of Purifoy’s sculpture.

“I do not wish to be an artist. I only wish that art enables me to be.”

Noah Purifoy  (1917-2004)

The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge for this week is to share a photo of something that is art in your eyes. Purifoy’s work is art to me, and it moved me to tweak my photograph of his art, making more art…

More WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge “Art” experiences can be found here.

The Noah Purifoy Foundation:



27 responses

  1. Amazing find, thanks for sharing this…
    On one trip through the Mojave, just east of Joshua Tree, I passed a small wooden sign with an arrow that simply said “Artist” pointing down a narrow two track leading to one of those huge granite boulder piles. Why I didn’t stop, I can’t remember, but in the years since I’ve learned to be a little braver and accept what is clearly an invitation.

    May 17, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    • Great story! Yes, I bet you follow those hints now. :-)

      May 19, 2014 at 9:06 am

  2. Most fascinating…great textures, nicely emphasised in your black and white images. The colours must have been even more vibrant when these pieces were first created :)

    May 17, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    • Yes, years of harsh weather have stripped them of their original vibrancy but they’re so soft this way, and evocative.

      May 19, 2014 at 9:07 am

  3. Amazing what comes out of the desert sun. Can’t wait to see the rest of what you have to show us.

    May 18, 2014 at 1:42 am

  4. I think this amazing artist would be pleased with your photographs.

    May 18, 2014 at 6:25 am

  5. Looking forward to seeing more!

    May 18, 2014 at 9:31 am

    • I’m getting there. He was prolific – there are a lot of pieces, and I took a lot of photos.

      May 19, 2014 at 9:09 am

  6. Everything in the first image ‘sings’ to me – the colours, the patterns, the rhythms, the textures are all sheer joy. The black and white version shows the textures well but, for me, by comparison this image lacks the vitality of the coloured pictures. What was the size of the original works and what was their setting?

    May 18, 2014 at 10:18 am

    • Good question – I was aware that was missing. There are so many pieces out there that I can’t begin to remember them all. But it was fairly large. I will have more “context” photos when I make a post of the whole place – soon! And I agree, something’s missing when you take away the color.

      May 19, 2014 at 9:11 am

  7. Fascinating! Great to find something so different.

    May 18, 2014 at 12:20 pm

  8. What a story, and what great photos. His work is so unusual and unique. I like that! Are the pieces protected from the harsh desert environment?

    May 18, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    • No, they’re not protected at all, and parts of his outdoor work ares are there, also unprotected. Things gradually change and morph with the elements beating down on them, and that’s another story…

      May 19, 2014 at 9:12 am

  9. leecleland

    Love the shots and love the story behind them. To travel and find something like this that expands our thinking of what it is that we ‘see’ and call ‘art’ is exciting, thanks for sharing.

    May 18, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    • It does – expanding our notions of things, thinking differently – it’s all good! Thank you for commenting!

      May 20, 2014 at 7:01 pm

  10. How excited you sound BB , isn’t it wonderful when something touches you in a creative way and you just have to see where the process takes you !
    You’ve certainly come out of the desert inspired :-)

    May 20, 2014 at 1:28 am

    • It was a great trip – I saw so much! Thank you Poppy!

      May 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm

  11. I like your idea. Did you make the case yourself?

    May 20, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    • It’s actually not a case – it’s part of a sculpture by an artist named Noah Purifoy. I’ll be posting more of his work soon and you can get a better idea of what it looks like – this was just a close up. Thanks!

      May 20, 2014 at 7:18 pm

  12. Wonderful images from the Purifoy site.

    May 20, 2014 at 9:35 pm

  13. Pingback: Who is the greatest artist? | Words & Pics

  14. fascinating!

    May 22, 2014 at 4:44 am

  15. I love that the artist uses discarded objects, and then the corrosive power of nature, to create his works. It’s really fascinating, and inspiring.

    May 25, 2014 at 1:32 pm

  16. Thanks for the engaging post and for quoting him: ” “I do not wish to be an artist. I only wish that art enables me to be.”

    May 28, 2014 at 7:47 pm

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