Power to the Public Art
Find these open-air art installations in Palm Springs
By Kevin Perry
Artistic expression can never be contained in a museum, a church, or a coffee table book. It is boundless and vibrant, spilling into the world and connecting humanity with every burst of color and curvature. Art weaves a shared experience through time, linking us to the masters of the past and beckoning future innovation.
What better place to do so than in the glorious open air?
No matter how you arrive in Palm Springs, you are greeted by wonder. It may take the form of expansive desert vistas, picturesque mountain inclines, or one of the following public art displays. But pay close attention, because these installations are as understated as they are unforgettable.
If your foyer into our hometown happens to be the Palm Springs International Airport, then buckle up to be bowled over. The Macchia bowl art by Dale Chihuly graces our terminal, collecting rave reviews in its seductively speckled basins.
This stands in stark contrast to the towering artistic achievement located at the base of the escalators to the international terminal; Christopher Georgesco’s Male Figure of Balzac eschews the titular author’s brand of realism in favor of an abstract 10-foot skewed obelisk. Its skewed surface is intriguing in its opacity, luring you further into the Palm Springs art scene…
As you venture from the airport, plant your feet in fascination with a detour to nearby Kirk Douglas Way. Here, you’ll find a trio of works by French sculptor Jean-Claude Farhi. His geometric dominance encircles Machine Age, Le Campas de Vulcan and Forget Me Not, three industrial outcroppings that act as guideposts to your expedition toward our inner circle of outdoor beauty.
Palm Springs is known as a celebrity playground, and various art installations immortalize some of our most revered entertainment legends. Emmanuil Snitkovsky’s likeness of Mayor Sonny Bono graces the Plaza Mercado right downtown (there is also a bust of him at the Palm Springs International Airport);
He also created Lucille Ball and you can find her on the bench in front of the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at the corner of Tahquitz and Palm Canyon.
Gene Autry is Back in the Saddle Again thanks to the De L’Esprie sculpture at the corner of Gene Autry and Ramon Road.
Not all of our residents are famous, but every single one contributes to the cultural tapestry that is Palm Springs. Doug Hyde has captured the legacy of Agua Caliente Women and a Young Basketmaker at two points along Tahquitz Canyon.
While these rustic figures hearken back to California’s native roots, Isabelle aspires to her future. Perched on the side of the Kimpton Rowan Hotel, Julian Voss-Andreae’s stylish cacophony of steel, concrete and lights ushers visitors to an upscale vision of Palm Springs. You’ll find she looks different based on the time of day and where you stand.
Our local art celebrates global heroes, from the 9/11 Memorial at the airport fire station on El Cielo road to The Batter at our baseball stadium to Palm Springs founding father Frank Bogert on Horseback at City Hall on Tahquitz in front of the airport. This is also the site of Desert Reflections, a skeletal wire facsimile of our iconic SoCal landscape.
Public art also decorates the grounds of the Palm Springs Convention Center on Amado and Avenida Caballeros, which was designed to emulate the natural desert landscape. The artwork also emulates this like Steve Tyree’s Crouching Cougar statue you’ll find at the entry.
Here you will also find the creeping shadow of Michael Todd’s spare Daimaru XII sculpture as well as John Kennedy’s expressive one-two punch of The Entertainer and Sympatico.
The aforementioned human silhouettes mingle with their four-legged friends across town. Karen and Tony Barone lend their fun canine couture to the outdoor art scene with Monsieur Pompadour and his feline friend Mademoiselle Coco, both of which cozy up to the Palm Springs Animal Shelter on Mesquite Ave. The Barone’s also flex their blue period at fire station #3 with R. Hero, an azure-hued pup who shares his name with a crimson twin sculpture at the public library.
Abstract art is another hallmark of our public oeuvre. The serpentine embrace of Jungle Red emerges from the entrance to Warm Sands, courtesy of sculptor Delos Van Earl; La Vern Carroll’s Desert Hinge stands as a silent guardian of the Highland Gateway neighborhood; and John Clement has a triumvirate of colorfully coiled installations snaking their way throughout Palm Springs. Squeeze is at Palm Canyon Theater (538 North Palm Canyon Drive). Ithiel is at 777 East Tahquitz Canyon Way.
Steve Reiman’s Escena Wind Wave greets you at the north entry to Escena Country Club with its metallic arms reaching across the dry desert air.
Often missed is John Mishler’s Wave Rhythms on Sunrise Way and Ramon at Sunrise Park.
At the corner of Alejo and Palm Canyon is the undulating, hypnotic allure of the David Morris Rainmaker installation at Frances Stevens Park.
The creativity of Palm Springs surges through every ravine and bluff, invisible to the naked eye yet palpable to the soul. It emerges in the art pieces described above and beats in the hearts of everyone who visits our cutting edge community. Join the movement, already in progress.