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The desert isn’t just a place to create art for Cristopher Cichocki; the desert is also his muse—and at times, his art includes actual pieces of the desert. His works have showcased the beauty, the darkness and the catastrophes of the desert and its ecosystem.

Cichocki’s work has been shown around the world, and he’s taking many of his pieces to the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster for an exhibition called Divisions of Land and Sea; it’s part of a larger exhibit called The Robot Show, which features eight artists, each with their own solo exhibition. It will be on display from Saturday, Aug. 4, through Sunday, Sept. 30.

During a recent phone interview with Cichocki while he was in Guadalajara, Mexico, he explained his exhibit.

“It’ll be an installation of new paintings, video works, sculptures, photographic works and my audio work,” Cichocki said. “It relates to the collision that we’re in between humankind, the natural world and industrial production.”

Some of Cichocki works are not what they appear to be at first. For instance: If you look at his photos, you’ll discover he’s combined them with paint.

“After Palm Desert High School, where I graduated in 1997, I went directly to CalArts,” he said; also known as the California Institute of the Arts, the renowned school is located in Valencia. “CalArts is potentially one of the most multidisciplinary art schools in the world, and I was exposed to highly experimental and conceptual practices. They were completely mind-blowing, and to challenge myself and experiment, and I’ve always been striving to take my practice and insights to a different level. CalArts was a laboratory for me to work through this hybrid framework.

“As to when the work came into this cohesive relationship, I feel that really came around 2010, when I started combining my elements with the video, the photography, the painting and the performance. They came together and started to work together as a cross-reference—meaning they’re all pieces of a larger puzzle. I’m producing paintings that are photographs; I’m producing videos that are paintings, and vice versa. I find it necessary for exhibitions such as Divisions of Land and Sea to combine all of these elements into a larger narrative.”

Cichocki was part of a KCET documentary on the Salton Sea. He voiced his concerns about the growing ecological and environmental threat the lake poses to the Coachella Valley.

“The Salton Sea is one of the largest pending airborne catastrophes threatening the United States, and it’s right in our backyard,” he said. “It’s this issue that I feel is out of sight and out of mind for a majority of people in the area—not only in the Coachella Valley, but even spanning all the way into Los Angeles, people don’t even know about the Salton Sea.

“The Salton Sea was a manmade accident in 1905 when the Colorado River split and started filling what was then the Salton Sink, which was a huge basin ready for this water to enter it. Now we have California’s largest lake … and if the dust or particulate matter begins to advance further with the receding shoreline, we’re going to have major problems with the air quality. We already do have major problems. The high school in Mecca has one of the highest asthma rates in the nation. It’s not just dust that’s blowing around in the air; it’s particulate matter entering into people’s blood streams and causing asthma, especially in younger generations. There’s selenium, arsenic and all of these other things. It truly is this synthesis of nature and industry because of 100 years of agricultural runoff.”

His work gets quite detailed at times. His latest painting, “Shoreline,” includes barnacles, fish bones, sand and salt from the Salton Sea.

“I look at (Divisions of Land and Sea) as a hybrid between natural history and contemporary art. I’m bringing in elements of land art, minimalism and other historical points of trajectory,” he said. “Also, I’m bringing in raw organic materials. My paintings have actual barnacles; they have actual soil and things that are transforming within them. There’s black-light reactivity, which I actually refer to in the technical term—ultraviolet radiation. There’s evidence that there’s a metaphysical property under these elements. I’m interested in reality and also the biological and phenomenological structural makeup of these elements. There’s this idea that there’s something constantly in motion, and the work is alive.”

I asked Cichocki if there was a spiritual element to his work. He seemed to struggle with the question at first.

“I certainly feel that nature has a certain awareness to it. It can be as simple as we water a tree, or we don’t,” Cichocki said. “Or it can be as simple as we have classical music playing, and the tree thrives beyond the other trees in areas where there isn’t any classical music.”

Cichocki will be going out of state for his next exhibition.

“In September in Taos, New Mexico, I’ll be performing Circular Dimensions at a large video and installation festival called The Paseo Project. Circular Dimensions is ever-evolving, so I have new tricks up my sleeve for Taos.”

Cristopher Cichocki’s Divisions of Land and Sea, part of The Robot Show, will be on display from Saturday, Aug. 4, through Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History, 665 W. Lancaster Blvd., in Lancaster, about 135 miles northwest of the Coachella Valley. For more information, call 661-723-6250, or visit www.lancastermoah.org. Below top: “Center of the Sea,” 2018, Salton Sea barnacles on wood composite with LED video panel. Below bottom: “Property Division,” 2016-2017; left side is a tilapia nest at Riviera Keys, Salton Sea, Calif.; right side is algae with birds, Salton City, Calif.

Published in Visual Arts

For four days, the Palm Springs Convention Center’s main exhibition hall will essentially become a $100 million pop-up gallery.

The third annual Palm Springs Fine Art Fair (PSFAF) will showcase the full gamut of modern and contemporary art from Thursday, Feb. 13, through Sunday, Feb. 16.

In just three years, the Palm Springs Fine Arts Fair has become a must-do event for art-lovers. From 2012 to 2013, attendance increased from 9,500 to 12,000. This year, Rick Friedman, the show’s organizer, projects attendance will exceed 14,000.

Every available inch of the Convention Center’s Exhibition Hall is reserved for art, presented by some 60 participating galleries. Only a quarter of the exhibitors are from Southern California; in fact, participants come from all over the United States and the world: This year, the Palm Springs Convention Center will become the temporary home to galleries from Great Britain, London, Brussels, France, South Korea, Canada, and Argentina.

The Fine Arts Fair celebrates artists both well-recognized and emerging. Artists in the spotlight this year include Karel Appel, Le Corbusier, Fernand Léger, Henry Jackson, Frank Stella, Raymond Jonson, Addison Rowe, Pablo Picasso, Kenneth Noland, Cecily Brown, Eric Orr, Claes Oldenburg, Melissa Chandon, Chul Hyun Ahn, David Middlebrook, Devorah Sperber and Mel Ramos.

One of the fair’s central pieces, literally and figuratively, will be Steve Maloney’s "Ride-em-Cowboy." This sculpture was created using a decommissioned Bell JetRanger helicopter and a longhorn steer skull. Maloney adorned both the inside and the outside with thousands of colored gemstones; it also includes a Swarovski crystal chandelier and old cowhide chairs. Finally, an iPad serves as a virtual flight simulator. (Of course it does!) Palm Desert’s Heather James Fine Art gets credit for bringing Maloney’s work to the fair.

Beyond allowing attendees to experience great art, the Fine Art Fair sponsors educational programs for everyone one from non-collectors and novices to the most seasoned collectors.

Some highlights on the schedule (which, of course, is subject to change; visit palmspringsfineartfair.com for an up-to-date schedule):

• Non-collectors and collectors alike can meet the four artists showcased in the fair’s public exhibition, DRY HEAT—4 Artists in the California Desert. On Saturday, Feb. 15, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., the exhibit’s curator, Steve Biller, will moderate a panel featuring the four artists: Kim Stringfellow, Phillip K. Smith III, Cristopher Cichocki and Scott B. Davis. These artists have been creating site-specific works focusing on the desert’s natural, social and cultural landscape.

• Beginning collectors can gain insights from the panel discussion Art of Collecting 101, slated from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15; meanwhile, other programs are geared toward particular interests of serious collectors. From 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14, a panel discussion, The Art of Giving, will discuss philanthropic aspects of giving fine art to a charitable organization or museum. And on Sunday, Feb. 16, from 1 to 2 p.m., Art as a Legacy will be a panel discussion geared toward those who recognize that their collection needs to be a meaningful and distinct part of their estate.

• Palm Springs resident and philanthropist Harold Matzner will be honored as 2014 Arts Patron of the Year. Matzner’s commitment to the arts here in the desert is unparalleled; he is chairman of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, chairman of the McCallum Theatre, and vice president on the board of trustees at Palm Springs Art Museum. Matzner will receive his award at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 13, at a VIP event.

• At 5 p.m., on Friday, Feb. 14, Los Angeles-based photographer Greg Gorman will receive the 2014 Photographer of the Year award. From celebrity portraits and advertising campaigns to magazine layouts and fine art work, Gorman has developed and showcased his own unique style.

“I try to capture the essence of each individual,” Gorman says about his photography.

When looking at Gorman’s imagery, it becomes clear that his most successful photographs leave something to the imagination.

Gorman will be interviewed by Desert Outlook editor Will Dean, following an introduction by actor Udo Kier.

• Acclaimed artist Jennifer Bartlett will receive the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award at 11:30 a.m., Friday, Feb. 14. Throughout her 50-year career, this Long Beach artist, now 73, has remained a prominent and controversial force in the creative world. She keeps evolving as an artist: Her work consistently contains both paradoxes and contradictions. Irrespective of medium, size and subject, she creates imagery that requires viewers to take a second look.

A mini-retrospective of Bartlett’s work, Jennifer Bartlett: 50 Years on the Grid, curated by exhibitor Imago Galleries (of Palm Desert), will be shown near the entrance to the fair.

The Palm Springs Fine Arts Fair takes place Thursday, Feb. 13, through Sunday, Feb. 16, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros. Tickets range from $25 for a day pass to $250 for an all-access black card. For passes or more information, call 631-283-5505, or visit palmspringsfineartfair.com.

Based in Cathedral City, Victor Barocas is a photographer, author and educator/business coach. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Below: Greg Gorman's "Andy Warhol."

Published in Visual Arts

When you see Cristopher Cichocki's art installations, you senses will experience contradiction. He’s an organic artist, yet his works are illuminated by his signature neon paint, and often black lighting, creating an edgy yet natural composition. He brings attention to his underlying theme: the collision of man and nature.

Cichocki is the Palm Springs Art Museum’s 2013 Artist-in-Residence. His large-scale installation Desert Abyss: Cycle in Cycle opens Friday, Aug. 16, and will be on display through Saturday, Sept. 28. (Editor's note: The exhibit has been extended to run through Oct. 27.)

He often uses materials found in nature—such as on the desert floor. His works of art merge photography, painting, sculpture, video, sound and installation, creating a multi-sensory experience. Art-lovers raved about his Epicenter exhibition, at the Pacific Design Center's See Line Gallery in West Hollywood, earlier this year.

The Illinois native and Coachella Valley resident has been inspired by nature and the ever-present threat to an environment that is vulnerable due to man's actions and inactions. Water is a constant in his works; he often focuses on the Salton Sea and its problems, which threaten to affect everyone in Southern California.

Neon-painted dead fish and videos of water and life that coexist along the desert's edge are found in his works. There’s even a hint of nuclear catastrophe, perhaps, at his intersection of art, science and nature. Topography, art and geological forces are beautifully represented in his art forms, which include audio and visual stimulation.

Desert Abyss: Cycle in Cycle pays homage to the ancient body of water that once covered the Coachella Valley, and the remnants of that sea’s life, which are found along the mountains as fossilized fish and plants. Water was also his subject at his exhibits at ROJO Nova Museum in Rio de Janeiro and in São Paolo's Rojo Nova Museum of Image and Sound. Using locally drawn materials from the Amazon River and surrounding forests, Cichocki reflected the conflicts between civilization and nature—yes, it’s a worldwide theme.

I have watched Cichocki evolve throughout the years, and it’s exciting how he has been able to find a voice for the many issues that we face. This exhibit is a must-see; Cichocki has found inspiration in the desert and is making a difference by educating the public while also entertaining people with his eclectic art, showing both environmental beauty and the perils we face as a society.

I asked Cristopher where he sees himself in five years, and he replied that he wanted to be traveling the world with his curated exhibitions from museum to museum—kind of a nomadic artist at large.

See his work at the Palm Springs Art Museum while you can.

Cristopher Cichocki’s Desert Abyss: Cycle in Cycle will be on display at the Palm Springs Arts Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs, from Friday, Aug. 16, through Sunday, Oct. 27. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday, and Friday through Sunday; and noon to 8 p.m., Thursday. Admission is $12.50 for adults; $10.50 for seniors; $5 for students; and free to military members, museum members and children 12 and younger. Admission is free to all from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, and the second Sunday of the month. For more information, call 760-322-4800, or visit PSMuseum.org. An artists’ talk will be held on Thursday, Aug. 22, and a symposium on the future of the Salton Sea will be held from 3 to 5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 22.

For more on Cichocki, visit cristophersea.com.

Richard Almada is the CEO and president of Artistic Relations and heads up Desert Art Tours. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Below: "Deep Breath" by Cristopher Cichocki.

Published in Visual Arts