“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 fortieth birthday, Purifoy received a BFA 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 (1966), a landmark group exhibition on the 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 then emerging in Los Angeles and beyond, such as David Hammons, John Outterbridge and Senga Nengudi, who all worked with him. For the twenty 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 1980’s after eleven years of public policy work for the California Arts Council, where he 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, where he lived for the last fifteen 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.” — http://noahpurifoy.com
It’s in the middle of the desert and not easy to find…like any oasis or mirage. But it’s well worth the effort and, if you’re lucky enough to have the place all to yourself, as I did for a brief time, it’s spiritual, awe-inspiring, whimsical, and an amazing testament to one man’s determination and genius. I spent almost 4 hours there recently (including the 30 minutes my dog decided to go on a big adventure in the desert), and it passed in the blink of an eye.
Joshua Tree, California
Photo by Stephanie Roberts, http://ObsessiveHobbyist.com