Highway to High Art

Go inside the private studios of some of the High Desert’s most eclectic artists.

Tienlyn Jacobson Arts & Entertainment, Current Guide

Lamination work by 
Cat Celebrezze.

We often view art in an isolated setting. But if one experiences it within the context of the creative process, there is potential for a deeper understanding of the work itself. This is precisely what the yearly, self-guided Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours allows patrons to do. More than 100 artists in the Morongo Basin open their studios and interact with visitors in their work-spaces — areas usually kept separate from 
where their finished pieces are displayed.

Another powerful aspect of the tour is the ability to immerse oneself in not only the artist environment, but also the natural surroundings that shape the work. For Pioneertown potters and Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours veterans Amara and Thomas Alban of MazAmar Pottery, who moved to the High Desert after seeking a place “where the artists live,” the landscape plays a major factor in creation. “We weren’t even potters before moving here,” Amara says. “The desert did it to us. We’re influenced by our surroundings; the landscape, colors, even the climate contribute to our aesthetic and inspiration.”

“Lamination is the trope of existence with regard to our species and culture. Long 
after we are gone, plastic will be what remains. And as any ego-driven artist, I want 
my art to remain.”Cat Celebrezze

The desert has a different effect for lamination artist Cat Celebrezze, who lives in Joshua Tree with her husband and fellow artist, Blake Baxter. “The geography provides a stark contrast to my work,” she says. It makes sense when you realize much of her work focuses on context and isolation. She sees her laminations as “tiny sealed environments of the context that created them.”

Upon visiting Celebrezze and Baxter’s home and respective studios, it’s difficult not to draw a parallel to this concept of environmental influence. Everything from the landscaping to the placement of their studios feels intentional. Separate yet flowing together. Celebrezze’s lamination shed is small and neatly organized, appropriate to the scale of her intricate work. Baxter’s studio, where he paints with natural materials like sand, is spacious and open. At first glance, his minimalist canvases seem simple and straightforward. Yet upon closer look, one discovers nuances and variation of texture within the washed earth, cement, paint, and polymer. Or as Baxter describes it, “a reliable pattern of change.”


Blake Baxter


Cat Celebrezze


Minimalist canvases by Blake Baxter.

For being in such a seemingly remote landscape, the tour “draws a lot of traffic,” Baxter says, in part due to steadily increasing awareness but also through the vitalizing support of the community itself.

“The art citizenry here in Joshua Tree is superb,” Celebrezze adds. “New York and L.A. have that too, but there it’s dispersed and pocketed. In the desert, it’s more available, which is refreshing.”

pencil it in!

Tours take place Oct. 13–14 and Oct. 20–21 at studios located along Highway 62 in the Morongo Basin communities. Get the details and plan your self-guided route at hwy62arttours.org.