By Angela Romeo
One of Desert X’s goals is to bring art in public spaces and to have that art interact with the environment. One I Call captures that goal in a way no other piece has done.
Created by Egyptian born artist Sherin Guirguis the beautiful rendered site-specific installation is at The Wildlands Conservancy’s Whitewater Preserve. Nestled in a clearing and surrounded by the nesting peregrine falcons and beautiful landscape, One I Call captures the serenity of nature as well as the harshness of the desert.
The piece is a modeled after a traditional Egyptian homing pigeon tower. Entering into the dirt and wood structure one feels a connection with the land but also a connection to something deeper. The sensations of stillness and peace permeate the structure. It exists without artifice. It exists.
“The piece will deteriorate as it is made primarily of the soil and wood. It will leave no trace which is in line with the policy of the Preserve,” noted Sherin. “One I Call also is very attuned to the cultural aspects of the area. We are a part of our cultural pasts yet these histories are often dismissed or marginalized. Memories of our histories are important to ground us not just to the earth but also to our ancestors. We cannot escape the displacement of people and nature exists everywhere, even in the Coachella Valley.”
It is important to know that the installation has no preconceived notions of who we are. The work exists for viewers to bring their history in to the space. It is a space to experience and challenge not only our concept of desert, its beauty and sublime harshness, but to reflect.”
The Whitewater Preserve is one-half mile from the Pacific Crest Rim trail. The Pacific Crest Trail spans 2,650 miles (4,265 kilometers) from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. It is trail that many have used people coming to the US for a better life. “As an immigrant to this country, as someone who came here for the dream of a better life, the One I Call is a part of that environment as well. In this political climate, the push against immigration, the piece does stand as the shelter and sanctuary to those seeking protection. Here art, environment and the people from a natural bond.”
In 2006, The Wildlands Conservancy acquired the former Whitewater Trout hatchery through a partnership between Friends of the Desert Mountains and the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy. The Wildlands Conservancy then began a two year long restoration project with the goal of creating a wilderness preserve that would serve as a portal for free public access to wilderness. Whitewater Preserve is just one of three preserves in the desert region, each a part of a project to preserve lands at the confluence of the San Bernardino Mountains and the Mojave Desert called Sand to Snow. The Wildlands Conservancy led the recent campaign to establish Sand to Snow National Monument (which now surrounds Whitewater Preserve) as well as Mojave Trails National Monument that lies just east of Joshua Tree. In the late 90’s The Wildlands Conservancy helped purchase over half a million acres in the Mojave that were then donated back to the public interest in what is considered to be the largest conservation land donation to the American people in U.S. history.
Jack Thompson is The Wildlands Conservancy’s desert regional director, and was part of the small team that established Whitewater Preserve. As a desert local and environmentalist, Jack watched the desert become wildly popular with artists and welcomed the opportunity to help build a bridge the artist community and the conservation community, believing that fundamentally, artists drawn to the desert speak the same language as environmentalists. The Wildlands Conservancy believes Sherin’s piece was a perfect fit for Whitewater Preserve and is hopeful her work will call people to engage in the process of protecting the California desert.
For more information on Desert X visit: www.desertx.org. For more information on Sherin Guirguis visit www.sheringuirguis.com. For more information on The Wildlands Conservancy’s Whitewater Preserve visit www.wildlandsconservancy.org.