Last week found myself down in Palm Springs, not where I usually go on my desert trips. But keeping to my own rules, I always seek out “smaller” art museums when I am on the road. This was my second visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum. I was impressed on the first visit in 2009. The museum has a solid collection of California art. And I find myself, somewhat unexpectedly, drawn to “cowboy” art. Deborah Butterfield’s horse sculpture makes even more sense as one wanders back to a wall of horse-in-the-desert paintings (see above). I particularly like Frank Tenney Johnson’s Life on the Trail. I’ve never painted a horse and am finding myself inspired. The museum has made some changes since my last visit, with the help of major benefactors like Donna and Cargill MacMilllan, Jr. they are amassing a contemporary collection of what might be called “big city” museum pieces. Some of the changes though are a bit disappointing, yet inevitable. The museum is gradually losing it’s orange and brown, circular grid pattern carpeting that screamed 1970’s. You have to still take the stairs to the lower level if you want to feel like you’re on the set of the Merv Griffin Show.
Two years ago I saw a Robert Mapplethorpe show and an impressive Wayne Thiebaud retrospective. I have to confess, I was not keen to see the current big show titled Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982. I always have to keep an open mind on my museum visits because the show is fantastic. I kept wandering around looking at every room more than once. One theme and nearly 50 photographers including everyone from Her Ritts to Bob Mizer, Rondal Partridge to Diane Arbus. The show is up through May 27 and well worth seeing. Hopefully, it will get a well-deserved tour afterwards.