The Road Stops Dreams Are Made Of

by Angela Romeo

Like fine wine, some things just get better with age, and the annual round of Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours is one of those things. This year’s tours, the sixteenth series in a row, run two weekends this fall—October 14-15 and October 21-22. With over 50 artists participating, the breadth of the art cannot be understated.

The tours are sponsored by the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council. Charged with building the community though the arts, the MBCAC has been working since 2001 to bring local artists and local businesses closer together. “The event draws many visitors to the area,” notes Esther Shaw, Highway 62 Gallery co-director. “We see not only local residents visiting the art studios but people from Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley. And many are returning visitors, having made this event a yearly trip.

“The Highway 62 Gallery is an artist cooperative and a part of the MBCAC,” continues Shaw, whose gallery is at 61607 Twenty-Nine Palms Highway in Joshua Tree. “We’re the hub for the two-weekend event showcasing the work from the participating artists. The tour and the gallery are both open to active members of the Council. The high desert artist community itself is multifaceted. Our members range from well-established artists to newcomers, and the work runs the gamut from large-scale sculpture to painting, from weaving to photography and everything in between.”

The Open Studio Art Tours cover a wide area, from Morongo to Wonder Valley and beyond. Over the course of their existence, the tours have encouraged artists to join each other at locations along Highway 62. “Bringing several artists together in one location allows visitors to experience more of the Morongo Basin arts,” Shaw adds. “Also, given the large geographic area we cover, holding the tours over two weeks allows for increased exposure for all our artists. Some participate both weekends, and some, like me, choose one. That allows me to experience the work of my fellow artists.”

Art Patron had a chance to talk to two other participants in the Art Tours. The first, Scott Lloyd Doten, is a returning artist. “I have a large studio in Joshua Tree named Studio Shangri La,” he explains. “In the studio we have a gallery area and work space. Behind the studio we have a large art installation called Joshua Tree Drive In. It’s a 1950s drive-in set up as an art photo area.”

Doten’s roots are in the Coachella Valley as well. “I have been a resident of Joshua Tree for 27 years. At 7, I was taking art classes at the Palm Springs Art Museum. I also took classes from local artists Elsie Grace and Janis Commentz.”

Like many artists, Scott tried his hand at other endeavors. “I have worked at other professions, such as dental technician, where I learned to make miniature sculptures carving every tooth in the mouth, but I always return to art. For the past 15 years I have been designing and building fine art, sculpture and furniture.”

Another participant is native Californian Heather Sprague, who goes by the moniker Fey LittleWing at feylittlewingphotography.com and lives on family property that was homesteaded by her great-great-aunt. “It is hard to stay away from a place that is in your blood,” she notes.

“I take photos of just about everything. For me, it is about individual moments. I focus on three main bodies of work. The first, edited images relating to quantum physics. These begin as my own images, usually something natural, but not always. By applying mathematical formulas to the image, I can show another reality of the same object. Quantum physics tells us that there are infinite possibilities, but we are only used to dealing with one reality. I am creating visual representations of other versions, just as real as the one we are used to seeing.

“My second body of work involves self-portraits. I have taken self-portrait series for approximately 20 years. I am working on my own yearlong series right now called “American Woman.” These works are of a personal nature to me. They are symbolic, or carry a message. The third body of work involves my advocacy. I am a pollinator advocate, animal advocate, nature advocate. I have a continuing series called “Going the Way of the Dinosaur.” This work creates whimsical images with bees and dinosaurs to convey the message that we as human beings need to be taking better care of our planet and the other creatures in it, because everything is connected to everything else.”

This will be Sprague’s third year with the Art Tours. “My work changes every year, and my print editions stay small. Aside from personal exhibitions, the tours are my best chance to really talk with those who are interested in my work and for them to see my new work. For me, the tours are more than an art sale. They are a chance to build relationships with artists and the public. I love talking with visitors. I love having that chance to share something that is so important to me. For someone to see the value in what I and the other artists create is more than gratifying.”

During the Art Tours, you can find Sprague in Joshua Tree at Studio #57.

The Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours never disappoint. The art, the vistas, the people—welcome to the world of Art!

For all things concerning the Open Studio Art Tours, www.hwy62arttours.org or www.mbcac.org.