Glass Outhouse Gallery
I drive up Godwin Road, past the 29 Palms Airport, under two sets of pumps and braziers dangling over the electrical lines and wonder if any of the seven Cessnas I see on the concrete pad ever move. I pull up to the gallery and am delighted to discover that the installation its named after is an actual outhouse with an operational toilet, that you can use while looking out at the desert without outsiders seeing in. Coming from my plumbing-free cabin with its outdoor ‘composting toilet’, this seems particularly luxurious so I go in immediately.
My face almost touches the wall as I squat over the toilet and attempt to keep my purse and long black dress from falling in. At that distance, I spot some areas where the greyish film that’s creating the one-way mirror affect does not quite reach the edge. I dismiss questions that bubble up about how these gaps might compromise my privacy and refocus on the rest of the experience, which is quite cool. The blended image of the desert, the glass mosaic on the gallery building, and my partial reflection create a compelling three-dimensional collage.
Once outside, a jolly couple sitting in plastic chairs, presumably the owners, offers me a cold drink from the fridge to ‘enjoy while exploring the grounds’. I glance at the sugary options and plastic bottles filled with water and decide against it. They seem puzzled and mildly offended, but let it go quickly and enthusiastically encourage me again to take as much time as I want to explore the whole sculpture garden, tiny chapel, and gallery. I thank them again and head onto the path. The sun is strong and I feel silly for not accepting the drink.
I pass a metal rooster and chicken coop, a maze of liquor bottles lined up and shoved upside-down into the sand, and a flower pot figure with a cartoonish heart shaped mouth and long eyelashes. I mistakenly interpret the assortment of odd objects as random, and then realize that most are playful nods to the perils of the desert. I encounter body parts mostly submerged in quick sand, skeletons pumping iron and riding stationary bikes, and stitched black cowboy boots jutting out of a sand bank with an ornate cross and black lace fan marking the grave. The humor, loose staging, and inclusive nature of this eclectic and carefree collection are a welcome treat in contrast to the tightly curated art spaces I am used to.
At the end of my tour, another woman has joined the couple and is in the midst of describing an interaction with her daughter. Exasperated she exclaims, ‘she insisted on French doors’, and then, ‘she’s gonna get herself killed.’ She sees me and immediately launches into a pitch about the gallery. ‘You should get on the list while you are here’… ’It’s better now’… ‘Are you an artist, cause you sure look like an artist,’ I nod. Satisfied, she almost shouts, ‘I knew it!’ After this exuberant endorsement the owner chimes in that the gallery is booked out through 2022, which I find impressive given it’s remote location. I decline and thank them for the third time. I walk past a row of kids bikes mounted to the side of the gallery laced together with Christmas lights and head home.