The Desert Open Studios tour is back to showcase, connect and empower local artists—by allowing a peek behind the figurative curtain.
A sampler exhibition runs at the Coachella Valley Art Center from March 17-31, while the free, self-guided tour will feature 150 artists at 60-plus studios over two weekends—Friday and Saturday, March 18-19 and 25-26.
We recently spoke to this year’s two featured artists, David A. Clark and Adriana Lopez-Ospina.
“I’ve been a part of the local arts community for 15 years, but I kind of stepped away for some family reasons in the last couple of years, so I missed the first two years of Desert Open Studios—but I really love the idea,” Clark said during a recent phone interview.
David A. Clark Studio is located in Palm Springs’ Backstreet Art District.
“I love the idea of fostering community between artists, which is something that, as an artist, can sometimes be difficult, because you end up spending a lot of time in your studio working,” he said. “… For me, it’s been a great way of engaging with the community on a more grassroots level. Since my studio is generally open by appointment, I thought that the open studios would be a great way to engage with other artists in the community, and sort of create a sense of community for myself, but also meet people in the community who are interested in art and artists.”
Clark welcomes the conversations he has with visitors.
“People say what they’re going to say,” said Clark. “I’ve been a professional artist my entire life in some form or another. … I wouldn’t say it’s nerve-racking. I’m looking forward to having my studio open for the Open Studios. The community of people who are interested in art in the Coachella Valley is very sophisticated. They travel; they see a lot of work; they ask interesting questions, so I’m always fascinated by what comes in the door. People often have an interesting take on things and a way of looking at the work that I may not have thought of, which is always good, but it’s always interesting. I always learn something.”
He said he gets a lot out of observing what people like.
“I have two large pieces of sculpture in my studio now, and people immediately walk in the door and go to one or the other, which is fascinating,” Clark said. “Then they look at the paintings that are on the wall. That, for me informationally, is like, ‘Oh, there’s something about that draws people’s eye,’ so I would probably take some inspiration from that in terms of the work that kind of ignites their interest.”
Clark, a United Kingdom native, explained how he wound up in the Coachella Valley.
“About 15 years ago, I decided my interest in Los Angeles kind of expired, and it was sort of the end of a job,” Clark said. “I had been working on the television show Sex and the City, and then when that show went off the air, I decided to change my environment and moved here. At the time, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but within a couple of days, I was hooked. It’s so beautiful, and the people are really lovely. It’s a pace of life that allows the creative process to flourish—and I can also have a much larger studio space here, so economically, there are a lot of pluses. I think my work is structurally more ambitious as a result.”
Moving to the Coachella Valley has also provided influential scenery.
“Everything I make is the product of my experience,” Clark said. “The stuff that comes out is all a product of the influence that goes in, so I would definitely say since moving here, my palette has changed and become much more pared down, probably because there is a kind of poetry to the landscape here. There’s more space, which has, I think, added a quality to the work that is maybe more visually contemplative.
“I go for a walk every morning, so I’m always out when the sun is coming up, and the way the sun hits the horizon and then hits the peaks that lead up to the top of Mount San Jacinto, and the way those sort of intervening hills reflect the light back in different ways—I think there is something really soulful about that.”
Adriana Lopez-Ospina got a first-hand view of the start of the Desert Open Studios tours.
“In their first year, about three years back, Kim (Manfredi) and Anne (Bedrick) approached the studio that I work at, which is Coachella Valley Art Center. Kim was around and asked me if I’d be a part of the tour,” Lopez-Ospina said. “… I don’t actually have a space here; my personal studio is down the block at my home. I really love seeing other artists work, but also meeting other artists, because it’s sometimes difficult in the desert. There are a lot of silos that are hard to get to know, if you kind of hang out in one area. I just thought it was a great way to meet other artists.”
The idea of an open studio was a scary thought at first for Lopez-Ospina.
“It really became a process of trying to see what studio visits are like, because if you’re an artist, you do studio visits—not only with the public on tours like this, but also if you invite curators over and things like that, to possibly get into shows and galleries,” Lopez-Ospina said. “I had never really done that, because I had never had my own space, so it felt really vulnerable, because usually, my process is very private”
Lopez-Ospina dealt with similar frightening feelings when she was asked to be a featured artist this year.
“I was honestly so surprised that they would even ask, because I know that there are 100-plus artists on the tour, and I feel like a newcomer a lot of the time, and one of the younger artists here,” she said. “It was honestly an honor, but also kind of scary, because it is overwhelming if you haven’t been in the network, knowing the people and what the process is for these tours.
Lopez-Ospina draws from her heritage and culture for her art.
“I’m Colombian, but raised in the States, so my work has a lot to do with a research process of what Colombia has and its culture,” Lopez-Ospina said. “It’s really difficult to be raised in your culture outside of your own community and country, so a lot of the time, it felt like maybe I wasn’t Colombian enough. I think a lot of people who are second-generation of any culture feel that they’re not ‘enough’ from there. To sort of start processing that for myself, it’s been a lot of research, and my current work has a lot to do with the Indigenous communities of Columbia. My woolwork and my fiber pieces (are) specifically of the Wayuu tribe in the desert region of Colombia. It’s been really fun, because it’s a way for me to share where I’m from, but also for me to learn where I’m from.”
Viewers have been able to bring their own personal connections to Lopez-Ospina’s art.
“I think what’s really interesting … is that a lot of the time, what draws them to the woolwork is that it gives them a lot of nostalgia,” Lopez-Ospina said. “It’s textural, so if you see it in person, a lot of people are drawn to touch it, and it feels very comforting, and gives this feeling of childhood. A lot of people tell me their stories like, ‘Oh, this reminds me of just being in a comfortable warm spot,’ or it translates to something in their life, which is nice, because they connect it back to their own history.
Desert Open Studios will take place on Saturday and Sunday, March 18-19 and 25-26. For more information, visit desertopenstudios.com.