If you’re not already familiar with what Desert X is exactly, it’s basically a series of art installations that are set up in spots located within the Palm Springs to Coachella Valley areas, available for free, public viewing from the end of February to the end of April. This year, one of my best friends, Taylor, and I set out to go see some of the installations ourselves. While we didn’t make it to every single installation, as several of them were already closed and/or only open for a couple of hours a day. We also made the decision to limit our driving to staying within the Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage areas, which meant we had to forgo seeing two of the installations that were located in Indio and Coachella Valley. Nevertheless, the exhibitions that we did see were all interesting enough on their own, and made for some amazing photo ops.
First stop was: Claudia Comte’s Curves and Zig-Zags
I personally loved seeing the contrast of this installation against the backdrop of Cap Homme / Ralph Adams Park out in Palm Desert. The installation itself also made for a very unique backdrop for photos, which then inspired several posed shots. All shots of myself (especially the candid below of me with my camera, planning my next shot) are courtesy of my helpful best friend, Taylor, who can be seen up there in the white dress.
After getting our fill of Claudia Comte’s installation, Taylor and I hopped back in my car to consult our Desert X map and made our way to the next spot.
Phillip K. Smith III’s The Circle of Land and Sky
This was one of my favorite stops of the day. Seeing all of the different perspectives of not only our reflections, but the reflection of the sky and landscape around us in the reflective beams was so fun to play around with on my camera. It was like being in the middle of an optical illusion come to life, and was well worth the drive to see it. After numerous photos (it was hard to narrow down my favorites to three), Taylor and I headed over to our quirkiest stop of the day.
Will Boone’s Monument
This installation in particular was definitely an adventure. It involved waiting in line, surrounded by several signs reminding me that I am responsible for my own injuries and/or death, to climb down a ladder into a man-made tunnel with a statue of President John F. Kennedy waiting for me in a small room underground. I did not realize until later just how sinister my photo of the JFK statue turned out, but given the lighting down in the tunnel, it was inevitable. I ended up walking away feeling mostly proud of myself for not completely eating it down the rickety ladder steps into the tunnel. Thankfully for me, our next stop involved a lot less physical ability.
Sunnylands Center and Gardens
While the actual Desert X art installation here was Lita Albuquerque’s hEARTH, which was brilliant, I could not help but be taken by the beautiful scenery that Sunnylands has to offer. From the vibrantly gorgeous blooms, to the lovely shaded walkways, I felt immediately at peace there. I can see exactly why Sunnylands has been deemed the Camp David of the West, given its history with past presidential visits. No one can deny its beauty when you get the amazing juxtaposition of snow-covered mountains (not so much on the day we went) and beautiful green plants and fields. The Palo Verde trees planted along the walkways were also home to multiple monarch butterflies, which just added to the overall zen atmosphere of the place. I had the overwhelming urge to stretch out and graze in the field along with the people in one of my shots above, but I resisted knowing that we were on a schedule (and also starving at this point). After taking in these gorgeous views, we made a pit stop for some much-needed Mexican food at a local place in downtown Palm Springs called Maracas. Knowing that we were starting to get burnt out from all of the driving and sight-seeing, Taylor and I decided that our next stop would be our last.
Doug Aitken’s Mirage
Doug Aitken’s Mirage is definitely the sight to see on the list of Desert X’s installations. The installation is nestled at the top of a hill, which consequently allows for some incredible views of all of Palm Springs. The reflective interior and exterior of the house coupled with amazing scenery made for a memorable experience. As you can see by my photos above, Taylor and I (and everyone else that I could see) took full advantage of the reflective surfaces and made our best attempts at some decent selfies. It should also be noted that Taylor and I have always been particularly bad at getting photos of the two of us together, so we ended up taking more pictures of ourselves this day than we have in the entirety of our friendship (which has spanned 20 years, mind you). That said, this installation in particular ended up being my favorite of the day. You just can’t beat seeing a mirror house existing amidst a desert landscape.
Overall, Taylor and I ended up having a great day driving around and seeing all of the views that Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage had to offer in between each Desert X spot. So if you are in Southern California anytime between now and April 30th and have the chance to go to Desert X, it is worth the drive. We ultimately deemed it to be the perfect “day-cation”.