Twentynine Palms Art Gallery

This is a first in a series of posts about my favorite places to visit in Twentynine Palms.

The large bright flag was rolling with the breeze and had the word “OPEN” splashed across it.  It was good that it was there because I almost missed the quick right turn from National Park Drive to pull into the driveway to the entrance to the Twentynine Palms Art Gallery.  The parking lot was small and had only a couple of other cars parked there despite the flag’s proclamation of being “OPEN.”

My kids and I stepped out of the car and were greeted by beautiful desert views.  The Gallery was close to the Oasis of Mara and there was a dirt path that started at the parking lot that led to the Oasis.  Large mountains were so close that I could reach out and touch the tips of their peaks with my fingers. The landscape around the old adobe building the housed the Gallery had cacti and sculptures throughout the grounds.  Thorned palo verde trees led the way toward the Gallery entrance which was guarded by a large heavy door that I had to pry open to get inside.

As we filed through the door we were greeted by a man sitting behind a counter immediately to the left of the entrance.  He told us that his name was John and would we please sign in. “We like to show that we actually have people come and visit us” he told me with a wry smile.  

I returned his smile and signed us in the 3-ring binder where I saw that people from all over the world have come to this small art gallery in the old adobe building.

John told us to go ahead and enjoy the artworks.  He assured us that he wouldn’t hover and to ask him if we had any questions.

The gallery was sectioned into three main galleries that open to each other in a horizontal row going east to west.  John told us that the first and third galleries are their main shows that are changed every month and the middle gallery was devoted to showing the work of their members from their Artist’s Guild.  The current show was a historic show, displaying work of one of the founding artists of the Artist’s Guild which was started in 1951-2.

The kids and I headed to the first gallery on the right and I was treated to seeing lovely desert landscapes done by John Hilton.  The artist used many brush strokes to perfectly capture light that fell on desert hills and washes. They were so realistic that I felt I could easily step through his paintings and spend a lovely afternoon hiking through the rough yet beautiful desert scenery.

This first gallery had a large adobe fireplace built into the wall and the kids were immediately drawn to it.  They spotted something on display in a small case built into the mantle piece. We all looked at it carefully and saw it was a small urn that held the ashes of the old adobe’s mortgage.

The kids were already through the first gallery and I followed them out of the room, passed John who was lounging at the counter, and into the middle gallery.  This gallery had art that was more modern than the first gallery. There were a variety of mediums like collage, sculpture, and photographs. Many of the pieces in this gallery were for sale.

Moving on to the last gallery we saw more of the bright and dark desert landscapes of John Hilton.  We were also treated to two very large paintings of mountain scenes. These were paintings that were from the 1880s that the Gallery had in its collection and recently cleaned and refurbished to display.  I was impressed with how large they were and yet the artist showed striking detail on such a grand scale.

On our way out of the Gallery, John told us about the gift shop they had, which perked up the interest of the kids.  He also told us about reasonably priced art classes for both kids and adults and told me to go to the Gallery’s website to see what they offer and sign up.  Learning that we were locals, John asked us what brought us to the Gallery.

Without hesitation, I said “To look at the pretty pictures,”  and then felt very unsophisticated by my answer but it was the truth.  

John paused a moment and replied “Well, that’s as good a reason as any.”

I smiled at his understanding and vowed I would make it a point to return to the gallery at least every month to see the different shows of pretty pictures.

Admission to the Twentynine Palms Art Gallery is free.

Twentynine Palms Art Gallery

74055 Cottonwood Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Click here to go to the Twentynine Palms Art Gallery’s website:

The Lear Avenue Lights

I was driving the 20-minute commute to Joshua Tree from my home in Twentynine Palms. There was a meeting for work that I had to attend.  Most of the ride is on Highway 62, a four lane highway with a turning lane in the middle. It’s an uninterrupted cruise of 70 mph until I reach Joshua Tree and make a right on one of the light signals.  A traffic light turned red and I slowed to a stop. I looked around expecting to see the familiar landmarks of Joshua Tree. Instead I saw that I was still in Twentynine Palms and was stopped at Lear Avenue.  Lear! The stoplight that was approaching mythic status because of how often it’s installation kept getting pushed back was working. And I was stopped under it.

As I waited I looked at the house on the northwest corner of Lear and Highway 62.  It’s been freshly painted a terracotta shade and its bordering oleander plants have been cut back.  This house has been on the corner of Lear and the Highway for as long as I’ve been coming to Twentynine Palms.  My parents would take us kids out to our cabin in the boonies of Twentynine Palms in the 1980s. Dad drove on Highway 62 with the three of us crammed in the back seat of our 1984 Toyota Tercel for what seemed like an eternity.  The only thing to look at through the windows was desert and an occasional abandoned homestead cabin. When I spotted the house on the corner of Lear and Highway 62, the first sign of civilization since Yucca Valley, I knew we were finally turning off the Highway and were almost to our cabin.

This house is a landmark for the turn-off onto Lear from the Highway.  The owners mounted a pole wrapped with white lights on the top of their chain link fence .  It was the only beacon that marked the intersection of Lear and the Highway in the dark desert night.  It served as a marker for all the Marines turning left onto Lear towards MCAGGC in their caravans at night and a lighthouse for those who turn left on Lear to go home.  Lear is well-traveled both by civilians and the military.

Cars travel fast from Joshua Tree into Twentynine Palms.  Lear is the first major road in Twentynine Palms and cars must slow down from 65-80 mph to make the left turn towards MCAGGC.  The berm on the corner of Lear has many scuff marks and gouges from vehicles over turning the left and hitting the berm instead. A fender or a bumper might be resting over the berm in the dirt as a testimony of an accident.  As the population of Twentynine Palms grew so did the amount of accidents on the corner of Lear and the Highway. It was good when the city announced plans to put up a traffic light. Months turned into years as one obstacle after another got in the way of a traffic light on the intersection of Lear and the Highway.  Wrong parts were ordered and the correct safety equipment such as warning lights weren’t installed. For a long time the lights were erected but they were just there, looking at the oncoming traffic with a blank stare.

Now the lights are working.  On the intersection of Lear and Highway 62 I wondered how long the red light would last.  The light was red but there were no cars on Lear anymore. Why am I still waiting here? The light turned green and as I accelerated I reminded myself that I am not in Joshua Tree but in Twentynine Palms still and I have about 15 minutes travel time to get to my meeting for work.