By Eleni P. Austin

MAD.KAT gallerist Kim A. Tolman has been painting since her teens, in her native Germany. After moving to Cologne, she began exhibiting her paintings, she also started a career in opera and theatre set design. After relocating to San Francisco, her scenic design career shifted into high gear, creating sets for over 200 sets in a 10-year period. A move to Los Angeles in 2011, led her into a world of production design for film, television and themed entertainment, working for Walt Disney Imagineering, Universal Studios and others. With the move to the desert, Kim has returned her focus to painting and the creation of MAD.KAT Gallery.

Singer-Songwriter/guitarist Russ Tolman was the head honcho of Psychedelic gunslingers True West, who were considered part of The Paisley Underground scene, which included The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, The Bangles, The Three O’ Clock, Green On Red and the Long Ryders. Since 1986, Russ has released eight solo albums and numerous singles. His latest album is Goodbye Eldorado. Ahead of MAD.KAT’s latest show Sound & Vision, Russ graciously answered a few of my burning questions.

ELENI: I know you and Kim have lived everywhere what made you guys want to settle here in the desert?


RUSS: A few years back, we had a house with some acreage, in Joshua Tree, nestled up against boulders, bordering the park. We had it for a couple of years but got too busy to come out to the desert. Fast-forward a few years to the pandemic, and we bought a condo in Palm Springs for a getaway. After a year or so of coming over from Long Beach, we decided to buy a new-build house in a neighboring community and make the full-time move. That was two years ago, and we’re loving it.

ELENI: Was opening an art gallery always the plan?

RUSS: Yes and no. Kim attended art school in Germany and has been painting and exhibiting for years. When we were married and she joined me in San Francisco in 2001, her design career took off. She designed over 200 theatre and opera productions by the time we moved south to Los Angeles in 2011. There, she started production designing for theatre and film, TV and themed entertainment, which took us to Osaka, Japan, where we lived for a while. She continued to paint on and off, but with the full-time move to the desert, one of the goals was for her to spend more time with her art. The gallery grew organically from that.

ELENI: It felt as though you hit the ground running with the gallery opening last summer. Can you tell me a bit about your previous shows?

RUSS: We got the gallery space in April of last year and spent several months turning it into a gallery. We had our soft opening at the end of July, with a 30-year retrospective of Kim’s work. In October, we had our grand opening with in-ter-con-nec-tion, which was a group show of 15 U.S., international and local artists. Countries represented included Japan, Egypt, Greece, Spain and Costa Rica. That ran until mid-December, then we participated in Desert Open Studios with Kim’s art, as well as that from local artists Bonnie Denver Ruttan and Steve Ohlrich. Running from February 16th until March 10th, is our special Modernism exhibition, HOLLYWOOD COOL: The John R. Hamilton Lost Archive Exposed- a fantastic photo exhibition of ‘50s. ‘60s and ‘70s celebrity photography that we are doing in partnership with the John Wayne Estate, which owns the archive.

ELENI: As the musician in the family, do you ever think the gallery will ever host live performances?

RUSS: We really do need more live music venues in the area, but MAD.KAT is an art gallery and we want to keep our focus there. Plus, it’s unlikely the city of Rancho Mirage would approve.

ELENI: So, let’s dig into the upcoming Sound & Vision show. Can you tell me how it came about and who is involved?

RUSS: It was Kim’s idea. There are so many artists that are excellent visual artists. Since this is my world and I know many of the participants, Kim let me run with putting it together. We have a very interesting mix of 15 artists. The headliner, so to speak, is Folk singer and social activist Joan Baez, who will be showing her portraits of other musicians, including Keith Richards, Jack White and Lana Del Rey. There are a few Americana artists that are as well-known for their art as their music. That would be Jon Langford (formerly of the U.K. band, The Mekons), Jeb Loy Nichols and Tom Russell. Other participants include Chuck Prophet, Juliana Hatfield (Blake Babies, Lemonheads), Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Baseball Project) Reg Mombassa from the Australian band, Mental As Anything, Deb Talen (The Weepies), Penelope Houston (The Avengers), along with local glass artist and cellist Joyce Rooks, plus a few more.


MAD.KAT Gallery Presents Sound & Vision: An Art Exhibition of musicians who are also Visual Artists. March 16th-April 21st, 2024. Opening Reception Saturday March 16, 5:00-9:00pm. MAD.KAT Gallery, 71590 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage, CA 92262.

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