Joshua Tree national park: music, myths and art in the desert

The Coachella festival, starting this week, showcases music in a dramatic landscape but in – and around – Joshua Tree the arts and culture shine all year round

Out in the desert, anything seemed possible. The stark, dry landscape felt like an illusion, a deception that belied the artistic endeavour and creativity around Joshua Tree and the other high desert communities of Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms and Pioneertown. I got the sense that maybe no idea could be too crazy, no scheme too “out there”.

My surroundings made it easy to feel this way: I was looking at the salvaged-material sculptures of Noah Purifoy at a 10-acre open-air gallery a few minutes’ drive from the town of Joshua Tree. The Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture is as mesmerising as its name. Amid the cactus and sagebrush, I saw old cathode-ray-tube TVs and VCRs piled against a jumble of scrap metal, and a welcome sign fashioned from tyres. A plot of white crosses hinted at darkness and mortality, while there was humour in bicycle parts and pieces of wood and metal united as unfathomable contraptions.

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