Organic Shapes in the Desert

Organic Shapes in the Desert

My family and I went on the West Valley Rock & Mineral Club field trip.  The main stops were Dixie Mine to look for turquoise, 4th of July Butte to dig up Agates and finally Sundad Ghost Town.   Looking for rocks doesn’t cost anything, its fun to find a cool rock and I really love listening to Chuck’s stories during the hot dog cook out in the desert during lunch.

4th of July Butte

Remember, well Chuck went on that trip too.  There were about 15 WVRM members yesterday which included these 2 crazy guys from Kentucky with super thick accents.  It was like they just stepped off their homemade time machine last stop Vietnam War.  One of them thought I looked more like a Pat! Once he knew my name he said it perfectly.  Nicest and liveliest guys you ever want on a WVRM trip.


Jeff and Chuck have the most rock and mineral knowledge of the crew.  Our second stop after finding a lot of turquoise treasures at the Dixie Mine was 4th of July Butte, Chuck said “This is where  people from Phoenix would come to set off fireworks since they weren’t allowed to blow up anything in Phoenix!”  The Butte must have been famous after the age of the auto, I mean who would ride in a horse and carriage for 70 plus miles to the middle of nowhere!


As we got out of our dusty cars, jeeps and trucks we took in the mountains all around us with cool names like Yellow Medicine Butte and Woolsey Peak.  The kids were running around all excited after Chuck informed everyone, “You wanna cross the road and look fur Blue Agates along side of the washes, everything west of the roads bin picked over!”

sundad_05Chuck was right, we all found tons of Agate. Since I am flexible and tiny my tactic was to crouch under the brambling Palo Verde trees  growing in the middle of the washes.  I quickly found glints of cool greyish blue in the dried mud.  After I broke my nail and cut my finger digging them out I held them up to the sun and I could see the rock glowing from within.  The outside is porous with small holes like a sponge and the inside is like looking into the eye of a dark desert monsoon. Awesome!  It is miraculous something so gorgeous is just laying covered in dust and mud in the desert.

sundad_06We did end our trip at Sundad a hippie ghost town. There were no buildings just neatly arranged organic shapes with rusted out trinkets and beautiful broken glass in the center.  The site did have a peace and love vibe it was still giving off from it’s once thriving Hippie Commune of the 1960’s and 70’s.

Stop your car and walk in the desert.



LACMA: Black Flower Power

LACMA: Black Flower Power

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see James Turrell a retrospective.  Turrell is really wonderful but I will save that for another post.  What blew my mind was the fantastic architectural models done by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.   He seems like such an approachable architect, so down to earth.  I guess that is why his work is on display here at LACMA.  This is a quote that I read off the wall at the exhibit:  It is an organic shape, like a water lily, floating and open with 360 degrees of glass facing Hancock Park, the La Brea Tar Pits, Wilshire Boulevard, Chris Burden’s Urban Light, and Renzo Piano’s new galleries.  Primary circulation is achieved by this curving perimeter – a continuous veranda rather than a classical Beaux-Arts spine. Visitors can look out; those outside can look in. From the ground, and in elevation, the museum is mostly transparent. – Peter Zumthor

zumthor_01      zumthor_06

I still can’t get over the base of this site model, the entire base is cast in a concrete plaster mixture.  Zumthor must have cast the buildings upside down in a mold. The street names are even cast in the mix.  So the black amoeba looking thing is the proposed new museum for LACMA.  As far as I understand the design still needs to be approved by the board of the directors, the new building will require the removal of several older structures by other architects.  The older buildings are disconnected from one another.  When I first read about this project back in Arizona I couldn’t realize the magnitude of it. It wasn’t until I walked the grounds of the LACMA, smelled the bubbling tar pits and felt disconnected by having to go in and out of buildings to see exhibits.

zumthor_02      zumthor_03

I love the tar pits as shown in the models.  The trees on the bigger scale model are tattered muslin on sticks.  One of the blob protrusions of the black blob will cantilever over the La Brea Tar Pit.  That will be totally cool.  As it is now, the tar pits are pretty disconnected from the LACMA experience. I think the older museum buildings are just creepy and dark as well. Getting back to the models, the large scale model of the actual new building is so huge I couldn’t capture it with my Iphone. The photo above on the right is just a snap of what it will be like to see through the glass walls that will be 360 around the entire structure. Of course common sense asks how this big flat black roof will drain and what the sea of proposed solar panels will look like.

zumthor_04      zumthor_05

This is a working model on the left.   I say working model because of the pins that are holding up the walls.  It is supposed to be the largest museum in any city.  There are lots of questions in my mind about how storage will work and especially egress.  I know at the Phoenix Art Museum there is one main entry and it is highly supervised.  I can’t imagine how much it would cost to have 3 museum main entries that Zumthor is proposing for this project.  The photo on the right is a study model of light quality for a gallery space.  All he did was put a piece of vellum on top of the foam core walls.  Museum spaces will not have ambient light if there is a big black flower for a roof?

I enjoyed the models immensely!  I am excited to watch this project play out.  It is encouraging to know that Zumthor has already been at this project for 6 years and it has not yet been accepted.  Zumthor is an inspiration for me in that he comes from a quiet country place in Switzerland and he came to Los Angeles to design an exciting forward looking work of art.  He has taken his time to get familiar with Los Angeles and it paid off.  I want this black flower to bloom over Los Angeles.