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

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