By Angela Romeo

 Desert X has now become reality. As the inaugural event takes over the Coachella Valley a perfect opportunity to showcase ecotourism is upon us. The event runs through April 30th.  Desert X involves 16 artists: Doug Aitken, Lita Albuquerque, Will Boone, Jennifer Bolande, Claudia Comte, Armando Lerma,    Jeffrey Gibson, Sherin Guirguis, Norma Jeane, Glenn Kaino, Gabriel Kuri, Richard Prince, Rob Pruitt,   Juliao Sarmento, Phillip K. Smith III, and Tavares Strachan. Each has created site-specific installations that incorporate the valley’s landscape as the canvas for these site-specific works. The works are spread throughout the area – indoors, outdoors, in tunnels, and some a chase to see the elusive work. The exhibition is free, self-guided or via tour but it does something very wonderful – it brings ART to all.  This is truly PUBLIC ART – in a way that many are not to use to viewing art in public places. Some may see the work as esoteric. Some may see it as approachable. But all will see it as conversation.

Desert X is the vision of Susan L. Davis. Ms. Davis saw the impact of art and the importance of site-specific installations. She also knows the impact of taking art out of the traditional venues. By removing art form institutions and galleries she transforms the art world into a self-guided interaction between the viewer, the landscape, the piece and the artist. As Ms. Davis stated, she is taking art, the viewer and the notion of art out of our collective comfort zones. And oh, the places we can go!

Local artist Phillip K. Smith’s piece is located at Portola and Frank Sinatra Drives, in Palm Desert. “300 geometric reflectors angled at 10 degrees” form the work, entitled Circle of Land and Sky. The installation makes full effect of the landscape features as well as the environmental factors. Like snowflakes, the piece is unique at any given moment.

Not far from Phillip’s work is the work of Lita Albuquerque. Her work, hEARTH, is located on the grounds of Sunnylands Center, Rancho Mirage. The work is a journey into listening, a skill many have lost in the hash tag world. The work debuted with performance employing 3 dancers and 15 chorale members. As the troupe challenged us to listen and to question why we are hear/here, the sculpture, a prone figure in ultramarine blue pigment lay in a circle of white, the figure’s ear to the ground. The performance emphasized the impact of truly listening to the world around us. Like her figure in hEARTH, we have to engage our senses and become part of the community of man and earth.

Local tourism publicist Joe Enos had this to say about Desert X. “While Desert X’s impact on the destination has yet to be seen, the overall visibility it is giving to cultural tourism cannot be understated.  The worldwide press alone for the exhibit and the Coachella Valley is almost priceless.  I think this is a watershed moment for us, and much like the environmental art of, say, Christo, this is an opportunity to define arts and culture and the arts community here and to spread this news around the globe.  It’s simply a world-class and terrifically-curated show.”

Desert X is an adventure into art and into self if one is willing to accept that art is more than an oil painting hung over a sofa. For more information on Desert X visit www.desertx.org.

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