Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Desert Art Museum
Right before I left to visit my friend Jim in California in December, I decided that I wanted to add one extra day to the road trip we had planned. I was getting nervous that we wouldn't have time to see everything on my list (the eternal concern) and I knew that I wouldn't have a problem finding things to fill the extra day. One of the extra stops i was most excited about adding was Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Desert Art museum in Joshua Tree.
I first became aware of Purifoy's art when I saw Kaylah's post, and it was one of the first things that popped into my head when I realized we'd be close to Joshua Tree. Noah Purifoy lived for most of his life in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, and died in 2004. One of his first sculptures was made from charred debris from the notorious 1965 Watts riots, and he was a founding director of the Watts Towers Art Center.
He lived the last 15 years of his life in Joshua Tree, where he created ten acres of large-scale sculptures outside in the desert. The sculptures are made from salvaged materials, and vary widely in size, scale, style and type of material used. The "museum" is run by a private, non-profit foundation and it's open every day of the year, from sunset to sundown. There were only a few people roaming around the entire time we were there, and there is no admission price, but donations are appreciated.
To get to Purifoy's art, we followed Google's directions which took us down some rickety, unpaved roads. On the way out, we took a more direct path but just be aware that it's not the easiest place in the world to access. But it's so, so worth all of the work because seeing Purifoy's art in person was nothing short of a transformative experience.
Just the day before, we visited Salvation Mountain and although the two sites are very different in style and message, they are both physical manifestations of the vision of a single man. The desert is the perfect backdrop for these types of installations, and looking back over my photos had me missing that gorgeous desert light. We spent hours roaming the property—which is much bigger than I initially thought—and photos really can't do it justice.
I love the ingenuity and vision that Purifoy had—making beautiful, thought-provoking pieces from discarded tires, old clothes, toilets, bowling balls, rusty paint cans, wood scraps, instruments, machine parts, metal shavings, mannequin pieces, lunch trays and pretty much anything else he could find. I'm so glad that Purifoy's art has outlived him, and hopefully it continues to wow those who are brave enough to travel the dusty back roads in search of something more than just a Salvation Mountain selfie.