Photographer & Author: Francesco Stumpo
Camera: Nikon D3100 & iPhone 5C & 8
Film: N/A
Processed: Photoshop CS6, Lightroom and VSCO.

Date: July 6th, 2018

Photo Essay:
Land Art meets the desert
One weekend exploring Riverside County’s Coachella Valley.

The desert has long exercised it's fascination over the minds of architects, artists, musicians, writers and other explorers of landscape and soul. It is a place of scarcity, stark contrasts, crude survival, mystery and transformation. And Riverside County in the Southeastern part of California was no exception.

As we landed in LAX, we quickly stopped by Pasadena to pick up an old roommate from college and made our way east towards the Coachella Valley and the Salton Sea. On the road, I told my friend: “I want to go back to the dessert and look at the palms, the stars and the mountains”. And so we did, as we spent the next three days exploring Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert, including the foothills of the San Gregorio Mountain. In addition, we were there for the first art biennial titled Desert X which created a more unique occasion and intersection between art, landscapes and community.

Driving in and out of the different towns or cities, you are reminded of the beauty of the palm trees, the vegetation, the windmills, and the glorious weather. During our first hours in Palm Springs, we decided to drive around the various neighborhoods and see all the different architectural styles, modernist homes and contemporary outposts. On a whim we stopped by Sunny Dunes Road in the neighborhood of Warm Sands, with it’s vas road and tall palms. As my friend and I were geeking on the various door fronts, roof pitches and entrances (yes, architects after all) we noticed a local in the distance waving back at us. Curious enough we walked forward and approached him, right there in his front lawn. In a matter of minutes, we were having a tour of the home, the poolside and backyard, and talking about mid century modern architecture and the details he liked the most about his house. What a treat, and rare opportunity to tour one of these homes with a local! 

The rest of the day proved no different, as we jumped into Ace Hotel’s pool, walked around the courtyards and rooms and explored the neighboring shops and diners. Met tourists alike, all while enjoying the beaming sun and shade of canopies. Before sunset we had the chance to run into an older artist, who has vigorously tipping in her laptop next to our loungers. She seemed busy so we continue planning our route to explore this first land art biennale in the valley My friend and I played with the map, artists and locations, only to our surprise minutes afterwards, that the lady next us was one of the artists herself. She stayed for the next hour, we talked about Michael Heizer, James Turrell, and her own work. All while we collected the best recommendations, insider’s tips and and right then and there we got one of the most valuable and genuine exchanges on can ask for when one the road. Locals always have the best knowledge, without a doubt.

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