Optic Art at Desert X in Palm Springs

Palm Springs always feels like travelling back in time to a Mid-Century Modern life with the desert as backdrop. Except that this week it was surprisingly green everywhere, (ok, greener). Yes, after almost 6 years in California under severe draught conditions, I have been reacquainted with rain! And a lot of it!

Don’t hate me just yet, let me earn your forgiveness with a post full of pictures this week as I give you Desert X, an exhibition of art installations throughout the Coachella Valley.


Fresh from a week where I have been looking at a lot of Impressionist landscapes with their beautiful captures of light effects and changes, Phillip K. Smith III ‘s Circle of Land and Sky basically challenged all traditions taking landscape art to yet another level.

He arranged a ring of mirrored poles, 300 of them, all angled at 10°. They act as reflectors of what’s around which honestly does not look like much more than an open field with a few scraggly bushes.


Yet with all the rain lately, Palm Springs is a desert oasis with breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks in the distance. The Circle of Land and Sky brings those all so close, refracted in sequence, almost fully recomposed if you position yourself correctly.


As I walked around the ring I could suddenly see the reflectors grab the landscape that I could see in front of me AND the scenery that was also behind me and that I could not see simultaneously.



Both sceneries super-imposed themselves in surprising harmony while walking on the inside or outside of the ring kept on making me disappear. Practically magic!


Starting to feel like in optic art heaven, I then drove to see Claudia Comte’s mural.


Curves and Zigzags looks deceptively simple.


Where does the curved lines shift into straight lines?


Where does an angle shift into a curved wall? Or is it the other way round?


And on which side? And then, when the arrows actually point to the snow-capped peaks (again!)? Nature becomes graphic!

Last but not least, Mirage by Doug Aitken. I am not sure words are sufficient to describe what’s been done here.


A ranch-style house perched on a hill and made exclusively of mirrors, both on the outside and the inside, Mirage captures every bit of the surrounding landscape reflected on its outside walls.


And it looks good in Black & White too!


Can you see Palm Springs showing like a frieze on the edge of the roof?


Where Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to bring the outside inside and the inside outside, Doug Aitken makes you wonder if you really need the inside. But just in case, he brings in the scenery and you feel like inside a kaleidoscope.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And then, while you walk around, you might suddenly see the house fully almost disappear from the landscape. Did I already say “practically magic”?


Palm Springs after the rain gave me a perfect day, blue skies and balmy temperatures. So why do I wish I could go back to Desert X to catch some clouds and the sunset hours? Because all these installations have limitless art in store…

Go see Desert X, these are only three of 15 installations. It is on until April 30, 2017.

Doug Aitken’s Mirage will stay until October 31, 2017.

If you know somebody who would love this, use the Share buttons 🙂

Don’t forget to sign up to receive this blog every week. Thank you!

© 2017 Ingrid Westlake

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


12 thoughts on “Optic Art at Desert X in Palm Springs

  1. This is magnificent Ingrid, as soon as we return in one month from Myanmar I plan to be off to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. Thanks for this information, I did not know anything about Desert X.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How could we hate you Ingrid? Of course you earned our forgiveness with your wonderful new post. Love it – Love Palm Springs, one of my favorite places!!!! And love you too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nathalie, thank you! I told you how much being in Palm Springs reminded me of the great times we shared there! Love you too! Xx


  3. Ingrid I loved this post! It made me really want to see this art in the desert. What I find the most fascinating is the effect of mirrors in a landscape. That house must have been a unique site. Your post made me realise how much I love art outside. And desert landscapes. Reminds me of my time in the Aussie outback and all the aboriginal art. Thanks Ingrid and looking forward to your next post, even more going back with you one day 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Marlene! Yes, the use of mirrors was incredible. My fascination was to see how it made me completely disappear as the surrounding landscape (s) were taking over, overwhelming my sight. Let’s make a deal, introduce me to some aboriginal art (It’s on my list to learn more about after I saw a great exhibition last week in LA) and I will be your guide in the Palm Springs desert (only a long plane away 😂 but we can dream!) xx


  4. Too lovely and impressive.And either you are professionnal photograph or you were alone in this desert!So seeing snow through the mirrors is spectacular.I love shadows, sand,and mirrors.
    And the house with mirrors is a funny invention….troubling and seductive …The photo effect is really good.
    Wish you some rain, Breton Girl!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for such compliments. These installations are really photogenic but my iPhone and I know how to be patient too! Dreaming of clouds, yes!


  5. I love this post !! just wonderful ! it’s amazing ..
    The mirror effect doubles the capacity of our eyes!
    It is a perpetual spectacle, since it changes every moment. I love the idea !

    Yes I feel like you that these constructions of mirrors in the nature give unlimited visual possibilities !!

    Thank you Ingrid, your artist’s eye transmits us so much knowledge!


    1. Dear Marie-Annick, I am so touched by your comments and by the fact that you’re now following my blog. You are absolutely right, there is pretty much an infinity of views that such artworks can give us as the weather, time of day, a simple cloud can change it all…It’s magic! I wish you could experience it for real but like all things, it will makes us all react differently to mirrors going forward 🙂


    1. Hi Noel, thank you for reading and for your comment. I know Mirage has been closed for the summer months because it gets so hot in Palm Springs but check the Desert X website as it should reopen hopefully in September until its end date at the end of October. I don’t think it will be there beyond that date but Desert X as a series of new installations should be back next year. I will keep an eye on it and will let you know so stay tuned 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s