carl bray artist

Lasting Impression: Smoke Tree Painter

Artist Carl Bray became widely associated with the California desert, which inspired him to create thousands of pieces of art.

Jeremy Kinser Arts & Entertainment, Current Guide

carl bray artist

Carl Bray opened an art gallery that came to be known as the Smoke Tree School.

A native of Oklahoma who worked as a brakeman for the Southern Pacific Railroad, Carl Bray opened an art gallery that came to be known as the Smoke Tree School in Indian Wells.

In the early 1950s, the painter built a home in the area that borders what is now Highway 111 and spent most of his career depicting the local scenery. Supportive of other area painters, Bray opened an art gallery that became a gathering spot for a group of artists who came to be known as the Smoke Tree School.

Carl Bray painting behind his residence, now a golf course.

In 2014, three years after Bray’s death, Indian Wells city officials decided to pay tribute to the late artist and erected a monument at the location where his home and gallery once stood. (The property had fallen into foreclosure, and the structures were demolished in 2011.)

Drive east from Palm Springs on Highway 111, and you’ll encounter the Carl G. Bray Smoke Tree Painter memorial: six evocative panels embedded within a stone monument flanked by palms in a park-like setting. One of the panels is devoted exclusively to Bray, while the other five depict details of the city’s history.

The Carl G. Bray Smoke Tree Painter memorial on Highway 111 in Indian Wells.
stay for the evening

So, it’s late in the afternoon, and you’ve just checked out the monument. Now what? Grab a bite down the road 
at La Quinta Cliffhouse, perched atop a massive rock outcrop and accessible via 
a steep driveway. Locals love this watering hole for happy 
hour. Then head to The Nest 
for a nightcap, live music, 
and late-night dancing.

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