EMERGE: 2017 Benefit Art Auction

The Mojave Project is pleased to announce our participation in the EMERGE: 2017 Benefit Art Auction held online from April 25 – May 9, 2017 and in partnership with Paddle8 and deasy/penner&partners. This inaugural auction is organized by the Pasadena Arts Council (PAC).

As one of PAC’s EMERGE fiscally sponsored programs The Mojave Project will directly benefit from auction sale proceeds. We are currently at the production midpoint and with continued funding we will be able sustain our immersive research and subsidize the print publication of the first two volumes of field dispatches.

Direct links to Paddle8 auction pages:

EMERGE Main Auction page: https://paddle8.com/auction/pasadena-arts-council/

King Clone Creosote photograph: https://paddle8.com/work/kim-stringfellow/140440-king-clone-creosote-lucerne-valley-ca/
Mojave Boneyard photograph: https://paddle8.com/work/kim-stringfellow/140439-the-boneyard-with-tehachapi-wind-farm-mojave-ca/
Giant Rock photograph: https://paddle8.com/work/kim-stringfellow/140441-giant-rock-landers-ca/

Project director Kim Stringfellow has donated three limited edition photographic prints from this project including the photograph shown below. Altogether over 50 works representing a variety of important arts collectives and organizations will be available for bidding. We do hope you will consider participating in this event.

An opening reception & preview will be held this Tuesday, April 25, 2017 from 5-8 pm at deasy/penner&partners at 200 South Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101.

For more information please visit Pasadena Arts Council or phone at (626) 783-8171.

Mojave Boneyard withTehachapi Windfarm, Mojave, CA, 2015, archival pigment print, 22 x 17 inches, 2/5 edition.

Made in the Mojave opens May 13 at MOAH Lancaster

Made in the Mojave opening Saturday, May 13, 2017 at MOAH (Museum of Art & History) is the launch exhibition for The Mojave Project, a multiyear transmedia project exploring the physical, geological and cultural landscape of the Mojave Desert.

Marking the production midpoint for this experimental documentary and curatorial project that began in late 2014, the exhibit will showcase over 50 photographs, maps, film shorts and collected ephemera along with the first two volumes of collected field dispatches from the project.

Made in the Mojave features artists working within this landscape in a variety of creative strategies and approaches to subject. The exhibition will be on display from May 13 – July 30, 2017. Please visit MOAH’s website for museum hours and location plus special events associated with this exhibit.

Opening public reception:
Saturday, May 13, 2017, 4 to 6 pm
MOAH (Museum of Art & History)
665 West Lancaster Blvd.
Lancaster, CA 93534

Special related event: To coincide with the Made in the Mojave opening on May 13, 2017 Kim Stringfellow is organizing a docent-led group tour of the Antelope Valley Indian Museum the morning of the reception. We will meet at AVIM at 10:45 am. Participants need to arrange their own transportation to the museum (AVIM is located 21 miles east of downtown Lancaster). Fee is $3. Tour will begin at 11 am sharp.

If you are interested in attending this special field trip please email Kim Stringfellow at: mail@kimstringfellow.com with the number of people in your party and the subject line: AVIM Group Tour.

Desert X Symposium/Panel Discussion at Palm Springs Museum of Art

Kim Stringfellow will participate in Desert Constellations: Art and Mythologies, a symposium organized by Desert X at the Palm Springs Museum of Art on March 11, 2017, 8:30 am to 4 pm (specific panel time TBA). Registration is required to attend this event.

About the Desert X Symposium

Organized by Desert X Vice President Steven Nash, in collaboration with Palm Springs Art Museum Deputy Director of Art Daniell Cornell, the day-long symposium contextualizes the work of participating Desert X artists culturally and sociologically, and includes a keynote address by land art expert William L. Fox, director of the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. Panelists discuss the history of desert land art, the influence of the environment on the work of artists in the High Desert, contemporary desert photography, desert architecture, and artist activists who extend their practices into the community through social processes. Speakers include Desert X Artistic Director Neville Wakefield and artists participating in Desert X; Leo Marmol, managing principal of the architectural firm Marmol Radziner; photographer John Divola; Daniell Cornell; Danielle Segura, director of Mojave Desert Land Trust; architectural designer Stephanie Smith; and artists Kim Stringfellow and Rebecca Lowry. Los Angeles-based curator Yael Lipschutz, an expert on Noah Purifoy and a member of the Desert X.

8:30 a.m. (registration) to 4 p.m.
Registration: https://www.psmuseum.org/palm-springs-art-programs/desert-x
Tickets: $50 Students $15
Annenberg Theater (Palm Springs Art Museum)
101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs, CA

Kim Stringfellow awarded Andy Warhol Foundation Curatorial Fellowship for Mojave Project

Launched in 2008, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Curatorial Fellowship program aims to encourage curatorial research leading to new scholarship in the field of contemporary art. Grants of up to $50,000 are designed to support travel, archival research, convening of colleagues, interviews and time to write. For more information on this award visit: http://warholfoundation.org/grant/curatorial_fellowships.html.

Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA
Artist, curator, and full-time Joshua Tree resident Kim Stringfellow has already embarked on The Mojave Project, a four-year experimental trans-media documentary and curatorial project that will culminate in an exhibition at LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) in 2018. Using video, interviews, reportage, photography and other means of inquiry, The Mojave Project examines the changing physical, geographical, and cultural landscape of the desert according to eight themes including Desert as Wasteland, Space and Perception, and Transformation and Reinvention. Stringfellow seeks out a diverse group of regional stakeholders—from geologists to aerospace engineers to land speed racers to miners to desert rats and others—to explore these themes. Notable contributors thus far include Aurora Tang of the Center for Land Use Interpretation and environmental journalist Chris Clarke of KCET Los Angeles. Their dispatches and those of other participants are being shared already (and will continue to be) at mojaveproject.org and through the Project’s publishing partner, KCET Artbound. In addition to the exhibition, Stringfellow is coordinating two desert field trips to the eastern and western Mojave to provide on-site immersion, and two, mostly free day-long panels on the Project. The LACE exhibit will feature an interactive video installation and the Project’s complete archive of field dispatches, images, maps, and other materials. In addition, there will be custom-designed vitrines to display ephemera and other artifacts, a reading room, and a published four-volume series of Mojave Project dispatches.

Notes from the Desert @ ACE Hotel Clubhouse, Palm Springs, Fri., 8/26, 7 to 8 pm, FREE

Please join Kim Stringfellow for a special Mojave Project presentation “Kokoweef & other Subterranean Mysteries of the Mojave Desert,” part of the Desert Institute’s Summer Lecture Series at the ACE Hotel & Swim Club. Please RSVP for this free event by clicking the flyer announcement.

WHEN: Friday, August 26, 2016, 7 to 8 pm

WHERE: ACE Hotel Clubhouse Palm Springs, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264

ACE Notes_Desert

Atlantic CityLab features Darwin Dreamin’

Atlantic CityLab showcases Darwin Dreamin’,  a short film featuring artists and residents of Darwin, California, a tiny desert mining outpost at the gateway to Death Valley produced for The Mojave Project. Read CityLab contributor Laura Bliss’ profile on Darwin here: http://www.citylab.com/housing/2016/05/darwin-california-kim-stringfellow/483944/

How Ronald Reagan Peddled Laundry Detergent


By Kim Stringfellow for What It Means To Be American

One fall evening in 1881, a prospector named Henry Spiller knocked on the door of Aaron and Rosie Winters’ modest stone cabin about 40 miles due east of Death Valley and asked to stay the night.

After dinner Spiller exuberantly showed off a sample of “cotton ball,” a weird, semi-translucent rock formation containing borax. Spiller suggested to his hosts that fortunes awaited those lucky enough to find a generous deposit of the stuff. He showed them how to test for the mineral’s presence with a combination of alcohol and sulfuric acid. After Spiller left the next day, Aaron told Rosie he had seen a material very similar to this out on the desiccated lakebed of Death Valley.

That morning the couple set off to collect samples of the opaque dirty white bulbous material that resembled a handful of dirty cotton balls spread across the desert floor. They made a camp and (so the story goes) “when the shadows had closed in around them, Winters put some of the salt into a saucer, poured the acid and alcohol on them, and with trembling hand struck a match.” Watching anxiously, Aaron exclaimed, “She burns green, Rosie! We’re rich, by God.”

Getting rich by finding gold, silver, or oil is a California tale as old as the Gold Rush and as new as the Beverly Hillbillies. But the story of 20 Mule Team Borax is also the story of one of America’s defining brands, a product that came to sit on a shelf in every household, offering an only-in-America promise that by using this particular washing powder, immigrants from around the world could share in the heritage of the Wild Wild West and join the upper middle class.

Winters staked his claim in the middle of Death Valley and quickly sold the land for $20,000 in 1883 to William Tell Coleman, a Kentucky native turned San Francisco borax magnate who built Coleman’s Harmony Borax Works on the property. Forty Chinese workers scraped the mineral from the harsh desert floor for $1.50 per day, except when summer temperatures reached above 120 degrees Fahrenheit—not to give the workers a break, but because the borax could not crystallize properly under such extreme conditions.

Coleman used mules to transport the borax 162 miles due west to a railroad shipping spur in Mojave, California. The teams that later became infamous as “20 Mule Teams” in fact consisted of 18 mules and two draft horses. The animals were hitched to two massive wooden wagons with 7-foot-high rear wheels, carrying over 10 tons of processed borax apiece. Two fully loaded wagons with a full 1,200-gallon steel water tank and additional supplies weighed in at 36.5 tons. Just two men operated the wagons—one driving and operating the brake of the lead wagon, the other minding the rear wagon’s brake. The trip took 10 grueling days across the hot desert and was both monotonous—moving in a straight line was not much of a challenge—and dangerous on cliffside curves where an entire wagon train could fall off, driver and all. Specialized sections of the mule team were trained to angle their bodies while stepping sideways so that the preceding animals could navigate curves.

Coleman got so much borax out of Death Valley that the market crashed. In 1890, he sold out for half a million dollars to Francis Marion “Borax” Smith. Coleman died broke three years later.

Encouraged by young employee named Stephen Tyng Mather, Smith capitalized on the “lore and mystique” of Death Valley by creating the 20 Mule Team brand in 1894. Never mind that by 1896 borate ore from the region was shipped entirely by rail; the company created personalities like feisty William “Borax Bill” Parkinson, who was hired and trained as a driver for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition and other promotional tour events across the U.S. When Parkinson died suddenly another man became the new “Borax Bill.”

Borax Bill, said an early brochure, spoke to his balky mules in language “that would not sound well in polite society.” If it seems strange that housewives of the time embraced the idea that a man with a dirty mouth would help them get their clothes clean and white, it helps to remember what hard labor laundry was before the advent of washing machines and sophisticated detergents.

Smith’s goal was to “put a box of borax in every home” and he succeeded at doing exactly that. By the 1920s the brand was considered a legendary triumph of American advertising, lauded for creating such demand that prices fell for consumers.

The brand’s popularity coincided with a push toward cleanliness and germ eradication in both the U.S. and Europe. Besides being promoted as a laundry detergent, borax was touted as an essential part of personal health, hygiene, and cosmetics. A 1919 advertising pamphlet titled Borax: The Magic Crystal read, “Perfect health depends on perfect hygienic cleanliness; and perfect sanitary cleanliness is secured by the use of nature’s greatest cleanser and most harmless antiseptic—Borax.” The product materials spoke in a kind of code to hard-working women who wanted to better their lot. Borax pitched itself as “a very popular powder for whitening the faces of ladies who are too much tanned, or have faded in some way.” The pamphlet said the product could remove freckles, be used as a sunscreen—or a deodorant—and soften hands that had done too much manual labor. The message that being clean—and paler—was the ticket to the American Dream was almost explicit in advertising of the time, which was aimed at a big melting pot of recent immigrants. As ad executive Albert Lasker told his staff in the 1920s, “We are making a homogeneous people out of a nation of immigrants.”

In 1930, the company pulled off another trick of turning itself into not just a shared soap but a shared memory of bygone frontier days, producing a radio show called Death Valley Days. These Western morality tales ran weekly for 15 years on the radio and then another 18 years and 600 episodes on television, where it was one of the longest-running Western programs in broadcast history. Ronald Reagan hosted the program from 1964 to 1965, and actors including Angie Dickinson, Clint Eastwood, James Caan, and James Coburn did guest appearances early in their careers.

Death Valley Days was Reagan’s last TV show before he ran for governor of California. In his ads hawking Borax, he is simultaneously a character of the old West, a glamorous actor, and the father of Patty Reagan, who shows how domestic Borax can be. It’s a neat trick, and it foreshadows Reagan’s uncanny ability to evoke a mythic past with a vision of domestic tranquility for political purposes.

But underneath all of the ideals of the frontier, of blockbuster marketing, and of the melting pot, what’s probably given 20 Mule Team Borax its sticking power is that it speaks to the core American value of hard, dirty work—even if it only took 18 mules.


Primary Editor: Lisa Margonelli. Secondary Editor: Sarah Rothbard.

This edited version of Borax: The Magic Crystal was published on May 16, 2016 for What It Means To Be American—a  Smithsonian/Zócalo Public Square collaboration.

Desert Sounds @ ACE Hotel Clubhouse, Palm Springs, Sat., 2/27, 8 to 10 pm

Desert SoundsPlease join Kim Stringfellow with special guests for an interdisciplinary evening celebrating the sonic history of the High Desert. Video, music and conversation curated by Kim Stringfellow.

WHEN: Saturday, February 27, 2016, 8 to 10 pm

WHERE: ACE Hotel Clubhouse Palm Springs, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264


This event is free!


Mojave Project presentation at SF Camerawork

SF Camerawork
1011 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Friday, June 12, 2015, 6 to 8 pm (free to the public)

2015 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient Kim Stringfellow will present The Mojave Project, a work-in-progress exploring the physical, geological and cultural landscape of the Mojave Desert at SF Camerawork on Friday, June 12, 2015, 6 to 8 pm. Project contributor Phil Klasky, a humanities expert and activist associated with this project will join her.

The Mojave Project reconsiders and establishes multiple ways in which to interpret this unique and complex landscape, through association and connection of seemingly unrelated sites, themes, and subjects thus creating a speculative and immersive experience for its audience. The initial phase of the project is designed to make ongoing research transparent, inviting the audience into the conversation as the project develops.

For more information on this project please visit: http://mojaveproject.org.

Funding for The Mojave Project is provided through a Cal Humanities 2015 California Documentary Project production grant with additional support from San Diego State University. The Mojave Project is a project of the Pasadena Arts Council’s EMERGE Program. The Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association and KCET Artbound are project partners. The completed project, exhibit and publication will be launched at MOAH (Museum of Art & History) in Lancaster, CA in March 2017.

Kim Stringfellow is an artist and educator residing in Joshua Tree, California. She teaches at San Diego State University as an Associate Professor in the School of Art + Design. She received her MFA in Art and Technology from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2000. Stringfellow’s practice bridges cultural geography, environmental journalism and experimental documentary into creative, socially engaged transmedia experiences.  She is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Photography and the 2012 recipient of the Theo Westenberger Award for Artistic Excellence. The award honors the achievements of contemporary women whose work in photography, film, and new media transforms how we see the American West.

Philip M. Klasky lectures in the Department of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University on issues of law, environmental justice, human rights, de-colonization, media literacy, cultural preservation and ethnography. He received his master’s degree in Geography and Human Environmental Studies from SFSU. Klasky is the director of The Storyscape Project of The Cultural Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of endangered Native American stories, songs, languages and ancestral lands. As an environmental justice activist working to protect endangered lands and cultures, wilderness, endangered species and human rights, Klasky was involved with the ten-year successful campaign to stop the proposal for a radioactive waste dump at Ward Valley.

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