Salt flats stretch as far as the eye can see, hugging the curvature of the earth. Veined with tesselating fractures, a crusted expanse of blinding white spreads before us. The suggestion of water shimmers on the horizon, luring us into the heat.
Emerging from the murky red of the great salt lake, our clothes crystallize, stiff with salt, glittering in the sun.
I brought my 6 month old baby, Ziv, on this trip–and his father as well, of course, my husband Ben. As an artist, as a feminist, it has been a strange event, this having a child. I believe Motherhood is in many ways the biggest taboo one can have in the art world. Even finding the language to think about, write about, being a mother is riddled with landmines of cliches, sentimentality, internalized contempt for mothers–hence, myself–fear of self-obliteration.
I must find the language, however, because bringing him has added a particular layer of magic to this journey, and not only for me. One challenge for me will be finding the words to articulate what that magic is.
– phrase My work is fully independent of anybody else’s, and it comes directly out of myself. What ever I was doing, I was doing it first. And whatever I was doing, I was doing it myself. Michael Heizer, 1977 I listened to him talking about it and I suddenly realized that he was talking about the purest kind of art there is, an art that can’t sell, that I could own, that would even be a hardship for me to see, but nevertheless owning it would give me some kinship to having itit, that i would have it even if it’s not in my house on the wall. I said « Go ahad, do it. I’ll pay for it. Robert Scull
The road from Joshua Tree to Kelso is littered with homestead shacks in various states of ruin. A few are boarded up neatly, merely missing a door splayed nearby, paint blistering on the desert floor. Others stand sentinel with their skeletal beams silhouetted against the sky. A few have melted into the ground, with only an explosion of shingles and splintered plywood marking their existence.
The Homestead Act of 1862 granted 160 acre tracts of undeveloped land west of the Mississippi to those who built a dwelling and grew crops within five years of staking a claim. By 1934, over one and half million homesteads had been granted. In the West, nearly half a million acres remained unclaimed, but most of this land did not have the water resources to support agricultural use. While this desert land had limited productive value, there was a growing belief in the convalescent value of the dry, arid climate. The Small Tract Act allowed US citizens to claim up to five acres of vacant public land by building a dwelling within three years. Under the belief that the desert climate would alleviate war-induced respiratory ailments, veterans were given special priority in the Small Tract Act. Over forty years, the Small Tract Act transferred a over a third of federal desert to private hands. With local media romanticizing the ease and allure of homesteading, the Los Angeles regional land office processed over a thousand claims per year for the Morongo desert. Many of these mid-century homesteads were eventually abandoned due to the harshness of desert living. Today, a surreal collection of half-ruined shacks dots the Morongo desert.