Mythopoetica: Symbols and Stories at the Palm Springs Art Museum fuses past and present to imagine a future for the inland Southern California region.
Mythopoetica: Symbols and Stories
June 11, 2023-January 15, 2024
Palm Springs Art Museum
The story behind Mythopoetica at the Palm Springs Art Museum is storytelling itself. Curated by the museum’s Luisa Heredia and Sharrissa Iqbal, the exhibition highlights ten artists working across various media—photography and painting, sculpture and video—who each engage the cultures and materials of inland Southern California to craft narratives that connect past, present, and future.
LA-based artist Daniel Gibson’s FlowerHead (2022) is an effective portal into this realm of reinvention, where refuse turns to art and the mundane becomes sacred. In Gibson’s vivid rendering, the desert is alive, even lush; in the same way, Mythopoetica demonstrates there are many ways to repurpose image and idea.
In the first gallery, paintings by Coachella-based artists Carlos Ramirez and Armando Lerma hang with photographs by Cara Romero (Chemehuevi). Romero’s 3 Sisters (2022) shows three women, skin patterned in tribally specific vernacular, wires running to their hearts and minds—an ode to Native wisdom, and a nod to the necessity of modern technology. Likewise, Ramirez and Armando fuse old and new, combining found objects—bottle caps, discarded packaging—with commercial logos, religious symbols, and images from the American Southwest to create contemporary Chicano iconographies.
Works by Fay Ray, John Flores, and Edie Fake bring gender identity into this modern mythos. Ray’s sculptures—organic, aluminum shapes with razor-sharp edges—invert expectations, hanging from the ceiling rather than rising from the floor. John Flores’s surrealist Saguaros (2023) have extra appendages, even faces—they are quite literally coming alive, embodying growth. Nearby, vivid, geometric paintings by Edie Fake reflect the vibrant flux of queer community, as well as the cultural and ecological shifts of the desert landscape.
Mythopoetica deftly telescopes to consider the overall composition of the local landscape. Abstract oil paintings by Lily Stockman highlight the colors and shapes of the region to create transcendental, meditative scenes, while Chris Sanchez and Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) interrogate the concept of “landscape” itself. Sanchez’s Night Freight (2023) turns corrugated metal into canvas, the thunder of a commercial train to music, and LED lights to paint. Photographs from Hopinka’s The Land Describes Itself (2019) series challenge the notion that we might “capture” landscapes, presenting collaged images of the Southwest and other regions of the U.S. along with text that complicates our viewing.
In its thoughtful curation, Mythopoetica becomes a microcosm of the desert itself: a site of constant regeneration and burgeoning possibilities.