Desert Art Part 3: An Early Morning at the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum

And when I say early, I mean early. Not even early for “us”. 

See? Mickey works nights right now, so we’re living that late night life a lot. I don’t get to sleep until after 4am most days. It’s worked really well for my brain and some late night creation. 

And also really good for feeling guilty when I wake up every day. It feels like capitalism is a part of the very fiber of my being, for real. I look forward to the day I can wake up after noon, after a night of doing so much work, and not feel guilty.

Today was not that day.

But Monday, I got up at 7am, so I didn’t wake up feelin’ guilty. 

Let me take a sidebar and talk about something significant that was different about our trip to Joshua Tree vs. most of all the other trips we’ve taken. Drinking booze was not a goal for us. Used to be, we’d go on a trip and our nights would all be a blur, cause we’d go out and drink and then the mornings and the rest of the day we’d be moving slower than we would otherwise. 

Now, I famously do not get physical hangovers. I could wake up after a night of drinking and tap dance an entire recital, no problem. I’d have a clear head – no headaches, clear tummy – no nausea and I wasn’t even really that dehydrated. HOWEVER, I was not giving any credit to the “mental” hangovers I would have after a night of drinking. 

You are probably familiar with them too – the ones where you question al the things you did and turn them over and over and over again in your head, making sure you didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings or say anything “wrong”.

Saying things “wrong” happens a lot unintentionally with my neurodivergent brain. And when I’m drinking, my filter goes way down, so it’s way easier for me to say something unintentionally hurtful. So, that was my kind of booze hangover. 

However, during this trip we were given the opportunity to go drink crazy at an open bar – twice – and did not. 

I think I had two drinks tops at the wedding and one was just champagne to warm up before we felt safe breaking out the blankets. 

We didn’t have a discussion about not drinking to excess on this trip – for me, I simply didn’t feel the pull to get fucked up like I once did. 

Maybe I’m finally done working through my upturned 20s. Wild. 

So, not drinking made it easy for me to suggest one final trip before we headed to the airport on Monday. 

The Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum was only, like, ten minutes from our hotel, so, under the impression that this Joshua Tree trip was a once in a lifetime thing and not something that I want to go do already again, I asked if we could get up early before our flight and see the art. They were open from dawn til dusk, so as long as it was daylight we’d be good.  

Now, I also need to say this:

A year or two ago, before therapy, I wouldn’t have asked to do this. My brain would have given me all the reasons we should not do this and convince me not even to ask. 

My brain still did this. It told me:

  • Oh, you’ll only get two hours of sleep!
  • Oh, Mickey is probably tired of carting your ass around the desert to see trash (remember how mean my brain is to me? I even trash talk the art I love!)
  • It’s gonna be cold
  • The morning will already be stressful, why would I add to that?

Not only this – my brain did the same thing before I brought up actually taking the drive to Salvation Mountain. It tried to talk me out of it SO HARD. 

But I didn’t listen (obviously) and got to see some really wonderful things. 

Look, I’m really looking forward to upgrading to WordPress so I can share pics in proper galleries, but for now, I’m just gonna give you a big ol classic photo dump:

 Mid-dump artist info, directly from his website:

“I do not wish to be an artist, I only wish that art enables me to be.
– Noah Purifoy, 1963
Born in Snow Hill, Alabama in 1917, Noah Purifoy lived and worked most of his life in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, California, where he died in 2004. He received an undergraduate degree from Alabama State Teachers College in 1943 and a graduate degree from Atlanta University in 1948. In 1956, just shy of his 40th birthday, Purifoy earned a BFA degree from Chouinard, now CalArts. 
His earliest body of sculpture, constructed out of charred debris from the 1965 Watts rebellion, was the basis for 66 Signs of Neon, the landmark 1966 group exhibition on the Watts riots that traveled throughout the country. As a founding director of the Watts Towers Art Center, Purifoy knew the community intimately. His 66 Signs of Neon, in line with the postwar period’s fascination with the street and its objects, constituted a Duchampian approach to the fire-molded alleys of Watts. This strategy profoundly impacted artists such as David Hammons, John Outterbridge and Senga Nengudi. For the 20 years that followed the rebellion, Purifoy dedicated himself to the found object, and to using art as a tool for social change. 
In the late 1980s, after 11 years of public policy work for the California Arts Council, where Purifoy initiated programs such as Artists in Social Institutions, which brought art into the state prison system, Purifoy moved his practice out to the Mojave desert. He lived for the last 15 years of his life creating ten acres full of large-scale sculpture on the desert floor. Constructed entirely from junked materials, this otherworldly environment is one of California’s great art historical wonders.”



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