Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tony and Bobette Milici

As a Joshua Tree gallery owner and a longtime attendee of the Art Tours, I’m familiar with many, if not most, of the participants.  When I volunteered to interview artists for this blog, I thought it would be fun to visit some folks whose work I’d never seen.  That’s why I recently found myself driving through the mystical landscape of Burns Canyon to meet Bobette and Tony Milici.  With no preconceptions about their work, I turned off Ox Yoke Pass and immediately knew that no matter what I might find inside, the house is art.  The graceful, arched  two-story steel structure soars like a wing from the desert floor, surrounded by Tony’s ceramic/concrete sculptures, steel outbuildings, a funky travel trailer and Bobette’s amazing greenhouse.

The house, which incorporates an airy, double height studio, was designed by Tony.  It is completely off the grid and utilizes both solar and wind power.  Despite the blast furnace July heat, it was pleasantly cool inside without air conditioning or swamp cooler, thanks to the extensive use of Structurally Integrated Panels (SIPS) and spray-on insulation on the outside of the steel structure.  The interior makes use of many green finishes, such as  cork flooring, recycled glass tile and sustainable Belizean hardwoods.

Prior to moving to the Pioneertown area, the Milicis were long-time residents of the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles.  They had originally planned to retire in Belize where they owned 200 feet of beautiful oceanfront property, but changed course after the birth of grandchildren and the over-development of the once-idyllic Central American hideaway.

Tony received his MFA in Clay Art from Claremont College and enjoyed a fulfilling career teaching ceramics, photography, painting and drawing in Los Angeles public schools, including Fremont High.  His personal definition of art, which he passed along to his students, is that art should be novel and idiosyncratic.  His own work reflects this dictum, and spans a wide variety of media including assemblage, photography, ceramics and painting.  He is currently working on a series of talismanic assemblages which were inspired by the practice of voodoo which he encountered during his time in Belize.  Visitors will also be able to see his painterly photographs of Belizean and Guatemalan walls, a lifetime’s work of ceramic objects, and just maybe, something incorporating a box of naked Barbie dolls.

Bobette is a self-taught stained glass artist who, when not busy creating art, is likely to be found working in the garden, sewing or cooking up a gourmet meal in the second-floor kitchen.  Her work has been sold at the Purple Agave Gallery and Route 62 Antiques, and she also sells through her website:  She is equally adept at delicate, jewel-toned jewelry boxes and large stained glass windows.  However, the real standouts of her collection are the intricate Tiffany-style lamps, which often incorporate salvaged and refinished antique lampstands.

This will be the Milici’s second year in the Art Tours.  Visit them on October 30th and 31st and enjoy viewing art inside a work of art.
written by Bonnie Kopp

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