Hwy62 Art Tours

WTF Am I Doing in the Desert?

So, here I am. In the desert. Everybody knows that I am a beach girl. I absolutely love the ocean and I am tremendously grateful that since a short while ago – three months to be precise – I actually do live near the beach. A fact that is not given when you are born in the middle of Europe in a country with no sea access (we lost it after the First World War and it is still a traumatic topic for us). I am talking about Austria and yes, I know, all American JUST love it and find it amazingly beautiful. It is – but try to live there. Especially in the foggy, freezing season, which can last for six months (of course I am exaggerating, but it actually feels like forever). Believe me, it took me a long time to live that dream and as I said, I deeply appreciate my new home at the ocean.

Yet, my husband, a lover of mountains and desert abodes, bought this house in the High Desert last year. Well, it was more a ‘wreck’ than a house but he being an architect and designer just loved the idea of breathing new life into this mid-century structure in the middle of nowhere, called Pipes Canyon, a part of Pioneertown, near Joshua Tree National Park. So, this is how I got acquainted with the area and everything that it has – or not has – to offer.

In the beginning I was skeptical and I did not really know what I should make of this secluded, quiet and peaceful piece of Earth, where you are more likely to meet rattlesnakes than people on the street – if there are streets at all. Mostly dirt roads and rocky paths, so forget about high-heels, actually forget about heels at all. Still, I have to admit that already from the very beginning there was something that made me curious. I was impressed by the discreet beauty of the barren landscape, fascinated by the massive boulders and the striking Joshua trees, and put under the spell of the epic blue sky that hits you like a hammer and you cannot stop staring at – or in my case taking pictures of. At night the firmament turns into a light show of shining stars, wandering satellites, shooting stars and of course the Milky Way. I tell you, forget about Neftflix, just grab a blanket, lie down on the ground and watch this incredible natural movie featuring protagonists you might never see anywhere else.

Hence, after some weekends in the desert – due to our building site – I have made friends with it. If you engage in the desert, you find a lot of little things that contribute to the magic of this place and one day all of those little things merge into a harmonious whole. The truth is that you need to be ready to live there. Just to make clear: I am not (maybe yet). It is a choice and it is not just something you do on a whim. People who move to the desert, are looking for something they cannot find in a city – and I am not talking about affordable living or a lot of space (although that is a good side effect). They are looking for their true selves and I tell you, they succeed.

What struck me from the very beginning, was the fact, that there were so many women crossing my path. At least, when we were visiting the town. Without even talking to them, they clearly seem to have something in common: they are strong, independent and they do not need to prove anything to the world. I love their natural faces, the color of their long, swaying hair in the wind, and their way of dressing. They are authentic and do not hide who they are or what they want to be. At first you might even feel intimidated by them – due to their powerful energy, their sparkling eyes and their creative vibes, but then, after getting to know them, you just feel one thing: inspiration and admiration. You immediately want to have what they seem to have found: inner peace, fearlessness and this ‘don’t-give-a-fuck’ mentality that we normally just – sadly enough – know from guys. It is awesome and you want to hug every single one of them. Right on the street.

So, in the region of Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, Pioneertown, Joshua Tree, Landers and Twentynine Palms there is this great annual event called ‘The HWY 62 Open Studio Art Tours’, which has taken place for 17 years now. On two weekends you got the opportunity to visit 150 artists in 94 venues (mostly their own studios at home) and explore their talents and homes. A great percentage of those artists and dreamers are actually women and so I had the idea to pick a handful of those and try to find out why they had chosen the desert and how this relationship works out for them. Unfortunately, time was short and I could only meet a few but I can tell you one thing: talking to these ladies changed my life. Don’t worry I am not really thinking of moving to the desert but I definitely will use the chance to visit more often to explore the eclectic sources of happiness and self-discovery. I already feel that I am on the right path but I am curious for all that there is still to be learned. And I long to be myself – apart from a judging and demanding society that tells you what is right or wrong, ugly or beautiful, appropriate or out of place. I think that a lot of women decide to go to the desert because they are sick of being judged or told that things do not work out for them. Out there in the desert they do not ask for permission, they make things work. And nobody gets in their way. This is the freedom that so many of us dream of. Actually it is rather simple, just like one of the artists told me: “Do not be afraid. Put yourself out there and it will happen.” So, when it comes to the desert the idiom that should come to your mind must not be WTF but actually Hell, yes!

Female Artists Who Rock the Desert (Part 1)

Cybele Rowe (Sculptor)

Cybele is not just a strong woman but she is a force of nature. The born Australian who has lived in the States for almost 30 years, has had it all. From the fancy Manhattan loft to a large home and studio in Silverado (CA) to numerous exhibitions and shows at prestigious venues. Her iconic works can be found in the collections of superstars like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith or Halle Berry and still, she loves the desert and everything that comes with it.

Cybele first visited the High Desert when she was only 22. Already back then she knew that one day she would have a house over there. Yet, her American journey started off four years later in New York. When she became a mother, she moved on to Orange County and then to L.A. Now she lives half-time in the desert and half-time in Santa Monica. She says that for her as a sculptor the desert is a perfect place as she works outdoors and the temperate weather and the humidity of the region provide the ideal conditions for her materials, especially ceramics and concrete, to dry fast. She loves to watch the firing process at night, ideally accompanied by Marshmallows and some Vodka.

Cybele is known for her vast ceramic forms, very often female forms that engage with women’s identities across cultures. When it comes to materials, she does not favor one but likes everything she is working with at the moment, no matter if it is bronze, concrete or ceramics. The reason why she works with so many materials is that according to her the message changes and it needs the right material to get the message through. She also claims that it is boring to work with the same material all the time, as it tends to turn into craft rather than art.

On her big objects, which are mostly made of lightweight and weather-proof concrete, she works about ten days. The idea always evolves by making the piece. Cybele says that painters see with their eyes and their hands and their eyes are determining what their work is like. She as a sculptor is more align with the nervous system of an octopus. Her concepts and her intelligence are in her fingers and no so much in her eyes. Hence, she is reading the form she creates with her fingertips. Those fingers really do well and once you stand next to one of her impressive and mostly colorful objects, you immediately connect to the shapes – at least as a woman. Although they are big and mighty there is also a kind of softness and vulnerability that you do not perceive with the eyes. You bond with them as well as you bond with their creator.

Cybele does not need anybody’s approval. She does not work in Yucca Valley to make a fortune but she wants to become a better artist. She has already shown to the world what she is capable of. Hence, she made that choice because she needed space and a good tribe, preferably other outstanding women. She has found quite a handful of those around her new home. She says that she tends to socializes with women in the desert because they are the ones who make a difference. They are strong and self-determined because if you are not, you might also get lost in the vastness of the place. That is a risk that Cybele does not have to face because this woman knows her place. If there is a desert storm, she is the one you want to hold on because she is not only deeply rooted and capable, but she is also a lot of fun to be with.

Find out more about Cybele Rowe at http://www.cybeleroweart.com/

The other portraits will be featured within the next weeks. Stay tuned!

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