“I do not wish to be an artist. I only wish that art enables me to be.” – Noah Purifoy
**Note: This blog got a bit wonky when I added the photos, my apologies. This is not a wordy blog, but I still wanted to add as many photos as possible.**
Nestled in a corner of the California desert, down a worn, bumpy dirt road in Joshua Tree, sits an outdoor museum that is interesting and very unique.
Located at 63030 Blair Lane, Joshua Tree, California 92252, it’s hours are simply “sun up to sundown”. It won’t be to everyone’s taste and in all honestly, it was not to mine. However, I know art is subjective, and what one dislikes, another loves. I believe in being respectful yet honest about my travel experiences, since sugarcoating or lying does my readers a disservice. I may not be a large blog, but I believe in sharing the truth with my handful of readers, whatever that truth may be.
And for the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum, my truth is that I was left feeling very underwhelmed and confused.
In pictures the “exhibits” look intriguing, interesting, and cool. However, up close and personal, it kind of just looks like junk put together. While I know art is subjective and abstract, I simply did not understand it. Having said that, on the flip side, many will love this museum and find it really intriguing, interesting, and cool.
Whichever category you fall in, I still suggest giving this museum a visit if you are in the area. Only a short, 15-minute drive from the entrance of the gates to Joshua Tree National Park, it is completely free and entirely outdoors. There is a donation box front and center, and of course donations are always appreciated.
There are no labels or names on any of the exhibits and you just meander around with really no rhyme or reason. When we arrived around 4pm,. there was barely anyone there. I’d say in total, there were 4 other people, with a family arriving as we were leaving around 4:45pm.
Since the exhibits are nameless, I will give them my own names. Some that stood out to me were: Tire Welcome Sign, TV Land, Bicycle Hut, The Castle, the Patriotic Toilets, the Toilet Sculpture, Silo Thing, Tower of Chairs, Chicken Shack, Bowling Ball Newton’s Pendulum, Metal Sticks, Creepy Mickey Mouse, Adrian’s Little Theater (the only one with an actual name), Tire Triangle, Shack Hut, and Abstract Trash Pile.
Tip: Pick up a booklet with map at the donation box. Hopefully, it will be stocked when you’re there. It is not super helpful in figuring out which exhibit is which, but it is useful. Another tip is to research the museum online before attending. You will be able to read about each exhibit which will contribute to your understanding. I will link the official website further down.
About the artist and museum: as stated in the name, it was created by Noah Purifoy (1917 – 2004). He was known not only for this outdoor art museum, but also for his work in Watts, California. He is the co-founder of the Watts Towers Art Center, which is why I was surprised I didn’t enjoy the outdoor museum that much. I’ve been to the Watts Towers, albeit years ago, and I really liked it, thinking it was so crazy and cool looking.
Purifoy started the museum in 1989 after moving to the Mojave Desert from Los Angeles. It took him years to build it to what it is today, and he continued creating and building until he passed away in 2004 at the age of 89. According to his foundations official website, “He lived for the last 15 years of his life creating ten acres full of large-scale sculpture on the desert floor. Constructed entirely from junked materials, this otherworldly environment is one of California’s great art historical wonders.” Since his passing, the museum is maintained and preserved by the Noah Purifoy Foundation.
Official website link: http://www.noahpurifoy.com/
Important notes: I would not advise wearing sandals or flip flops to the museum. Like I mentioned, it’s completely outdoors and it sits on sand, not dry, packed dirt. There is no concrete or stone paths. Also, there are no restrooms. If you need to use the restroom, I strongly suggest going somewhere before heading to the museum. Otherwise, you will have to use the “restroom” by one of the nearest Yucca trees, if you catch my drift. This is especially important for those with young children.
Overall, I think the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum is worth a visit if you are ever in the Joshua Tree or Twenty-nine Palms areas. It’s not hard to find and my GPS took us right to it. If you are a true art lover and can/will appreciate abstract art, it is perfect for you. If you aren’t, but are curious about abstract art, it’s also perfect for you. My 4-year-old really enjoyed it, because to her it was a bunch of really big and crazy looking things, so I don’t think kids would be bored if you brought them. And if you go near sunset, you can get some really pretty photos.