Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gourds and Mixed Media in 29 Palms

This week I got a glimpse into the studios of two artists from Twenty nine Palms - Cynthia Enfinger and Jacqueline Angove. 

The first studio I visited today was Works of Grace, the studio of Cynthia Enfinger.  Enfinger was a basket weaver for over ten years before being introduced to gourd art.  It was another artist from Twentynine Palms who first introduced Enfinger to gourds.  She has been "hooked" ever since.  Most of the gourds Enfinger uses are from Wellburne's Gourd farm near Temecula.  Enfinger likes that Wellburn Gourds are grown organically.  She washes the gourds, lets them dry, and then begins transforming them.  I got to see how she cuts the top of a gourd off, cleans out the inside, and begins smoothing the inside and top edge.
She uses different kinds of pigment and dyes to color the gourds, and will eventually embellish them with seeds, feathers, pine needles and other found objects from nature.  Some of her finished gourds also feature fiber and/or pyrography.  She allows each gourd to "tell her" how it wants to be finished, working intuitively.  Enfinger compares the imperfections of each gourd with our own imperfections.  While she is working, she thinks about how, for her, the process of her working with these gourds is symbolic of how God works in her life, taking her flaws and imperfections and through His grace, shapes her into something better than she was before.  It is this belief that gives "Works of Grace" its name.
Gourds waiting to be worked on.
Finished Gourds.

Enfinger teaches school during the winter months, and so it is during our hot desert summers that she spends time creating her gourds.  This Georgia native has called Twentynine Palms home for 18 years.  She and her husband first came here in 1977, when he was stationed here as a Marine.  Not only are her roots evident in the southern charm she emanates, but she has even saved pine needles from Grandma's Georgia long leaf pine tree, and these infamous needles will occasionally make their way into one of her beautiful gourd creations.   Making Works of Grace a stop on your Art Tours this year will be time well spent.  You, too, will have a chance to see Enfinger in action, as demos are part of her repertoire during the Tours.   You may even be fortunate enough to try your hand at some of her techniques, as this high desert artist is generous with her knowledge and experience.

Angove in front of her studio.
The second artist I was privileged to visit today was Jacqueline Angove.   Ms. Angove works and lives in a large space just off of Hwy. 62 on Cholla Ave. in Twentynine Palms.  Her studio is easy to spot, as it is adorned with an angel and the word "Peace" in bold letters.  Angove was born in London, and told me she was a child when the bombs of World War II were exploding.  In fact, she is in the middle of a series of mixed media paintings about the Second World War.  This series of work is done as though seen through the eyes of a child.  She informed me that she didn't know why she was doing these paintings, but that she felt like she HAD to do them.  Angove lived in London until she was 21 years old, when she came to the US with her husband, and Englishman and Olympic runner.  They spent three years in South Carolina.   They moved to Philadelphia after their stint in South Carolina, and then jumped around from Palo Alto to Southern California to Tennessee. 
One of the works in the WWII series.

Angove has been painting since the 80's, when she and her husband divorced.  At the time of the divorce, she had two teenage sons, and discovered that she could make a living, creating art for people remodeling their homes and corporate offices in Los Angeles.   Angove feels fortunate to be an artist, because she is doing what she wants to do.  Her goal is to "become one with nature and reflect that in my work."  She hikes often, and particularly enjoys the desert wildflowers.  She feels that she can absorb the colors that she sees in nature.  Angove has been in the high desert for fourteen years, six or seven of which have been in her current space.  She lives behind her spacious gallery and studio space, and is kept company by her beloved cats, now that her sons have grown.  Her art work is mixed media, incorporating acrylic paint and rice paper.  Some of her work is quite sculptural, breaking free from the traditional "paint on canvas" motif.  Many of the pieces she creates are impressive in their large scale, and well worth viewing in person.  

I am constantly amazed at the artistic variety and excellence of the artists who make their home in the high desert.  These two talented artists are another example of the plethora of creative talent we enjoy here.   I hope you will consider visiting the communities of Joshua Tree National Park this October, when we host the Hwy 62 Art Tours the last two weekends of October.  Both Cynthia Enfinger and Jacquie Angove will be stops on the tour the first weekend, October 23rd and 24th.  You will not be disappointed.

written by Karine Swenson

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Steve Rieman, Artist focused on the Art of Balance and Harmony

  On Sunday, June 13 2010, I had the honor and privilege of meeting with artist Steve Rieman and wife Ruth at their Yucca Valley home art studio. From the time I pulled in the drive, I was impressed by how the Riemans had integrated the desert into their home studio making it harmonize with the natural landscape. Steve’s larger than life kinetic metal and stone sculptures were displayed through out the property and were responding gently, moving with the light desert breeze.

While talking with Steve and observing the surroundings, it became clear, his art is about balance and harmony.  It makes a statement about us as the human race balancing our thirst for progress while preserving the delicate balance and harmony of nature. For Steve and his wife Ruth, this has been a lifelong quest and it is very evident in all of his works of art and surroundings. Steve stated that most of his art is composed of couples, working together as one. To him, this is symbolic of his loving relationship with his wife Ruth.

Steve studied and graduated from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Ca. His first years were focused on industrial design as he was exploring painting. He then started experimenting with clay and other materials for more 3D works of art.  After some time, his art began evolving again. Working with metal and natural stone, Steve is today creating large scale kinetic sculptures.  Steve is hands on from concept to installation, using a variety of enduring materials such as stone, stainless steel, bronze and weathered steel and has many inspiring works of art in public places.

   Steve reminds us through his art that progress without balance and harmony of our natural world is meaningless and without value.  Steve will be on the Hwy 62 Art Tours on October 30th and 31st this year.  (the second weekend)  Please take the time to visit him in October; it is well worth the journey. To see and learn more about Steve Rieman and his sculptures, please visit Steve’s website at:
 (Written by Pepper Wagner)  

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

29 Palms Creative Center

One of the stops on this year's Highway 62 Art Tours is the 29 Palms Creative CenterGretchen Grunt is the owner of the Creative Center, and she is a printmaker, bookmaker and art educator.  For this year's art tours, she is hoping to focus more on altered books and bookmaking than she has in years past.  Many of the creative- minded people here in the high desert have taken a class from Gretchen.  Gretchen has been living in 29 Palms for the past seven years, and has served as a board member for the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council in past years.  If you stop by the Creative Center on this year's tours, you will have a chance to visit Ms. Grunt and see her fantastic studio.  You may even get to create some art of your own.

Showing in the studios behind the main building of the Creative Center are two other artists on this year's tours.  Many people are familiar with the jewelry of Mikal Winn, who has sold his jewelry to many top stores, including Fred Segal and Neiman Marcus.  What you may not know about Mikal is that he also does larger sculpture, in the form of glittering, fantastic animals.  Winn says that creating these animals is something he has dreamed about for a long time, and has now finally had a chance to see his dream to fruition.  These creatures deck the walls of Winn's studio.  Mikal has been in the high desert for about nine years.  He came here from Columbus, Ohio by way of a short stint in Los Angeles.  The sculptures are heavily inspired by his childhood experiences of growing up on a farm.  He says they are meant to be playful, drawing ideas from the fantasy world of the movies and books of his childhood.    

The third artist you will have the pleasure of meeting at this venue is Anna Houghton, a single mom.  Ms. Houghton works in acrylic, watercolor, silkscreen and does beadwork.  She loves to experiment and is always trying a new medium.  Houghton grew up in the desert, graduating from 29 Palms High School.  She did spend time away from the high desert, even living on the island of Maui for a few years.  Her two children keep her busy, but are also sources of inspiration for her.  Anna will often help out with the children of the area, teaching charcoal drawing.  Houghton hopes to have a new series of larger, non-representational paintings for the Art Tours similar to the one shown here.

There is no doubt that the 29 Palms Creative Center is a place worth visiting on your tour this year.  The Creative Center will be on the first weekend of the Art Tours.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the Hwy. 62 Art Tours, it takes place the last two weekends in October every year.  This year, we are highlighting the artists who will be on the tour, so you can have a "sneak peak" into the studios of the talented artists of the high desert.   Stay tuned for more visits!

written by Karine Swenson