Ann Japenga's new website wallows in the art, history and landscape of the California desert, "an online magazine and gathering place for desert rats, collectors, historians, artists and anyone who loves the early painters of the desert...where landscape, history and art come together under the brow of Mount San Jacinto." Japenga is a longtime SoCal journalist who was a staff writer for the late Los Angeles Times View section. She now lives in Palm Springs, and in the site's lead piece sits down at Gramma’s restaurant in Banning with the 92-year-old Carl Bray, who she calls the Grandma Moses of the desertlands.
I first learned of Carl–like so many others—from the palette-shaped sign outside his roadside home and gallery on Highway 111: “Painter of the Smoketree”. While Indian Wells once revolved around a date shop, a snake barker, a House of Purple Glass and other humble attractions, Carl’s home and gallery is today the last remaining scrap of the original village that would morph into one of America’s glitziest resorts.
One day years ago I stopped in at Carl’s gallery and agonized over whether to drop $100 for a painting. I’ve never regretted the purchase.