Noah Purifoy

Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture

I do not wish to be an artist, I only wish that art enables me to be.
– Noah Purifoy, 1963

Just off of Rt 62 near the city of Joshua Tree, California, is the home of Noah Purifory and his Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture.

Born in Snow Hill, Alabama in 1917, Noah Purifoy lived and worked most of his life in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, California, where he died in 2004. He received an undergraduate degree from Alabama State Teachers College in 1943 and a graduate degree from Atlanta University in 1948. In 1956, just shy of his 40th birthday, Purifoy earned a BFA degree from Chouinard, now CalArts. (

Recognition came when he, together with a group of collaborators, created an exhibition of pieces made of charred debris from the 1965 Watts riots called “66 Signs of Neon”. Widely acclaimed, it launched his career to a new level. Later, in the 1980s, after working for the California Art Council, Purifoy moved to the Mojave desert and worked creating large scale outdoor sculpture.

“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.” (

Purifoy died in 2004 in Joshua Tree, California. The sculptural site is now maintained by the Noah Purifoy Foundation.

The museum isn’t easy to find, but it’s well worth the trip. Here at DesertUSA, we try to visit all the interesting locations we hear about out in the desert; this one had been on our list for some time. When we arrived at 1pm on a sunny Wednesday in April, we were the only ones there. There was a brochure at the entrance that provided some background on the 10 acre lot and Purifoy’s art. His pieces are good examples of the old saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

Limited funds inspired Purifoy to roam the region seeking discarded materials to create his sculptures. Many people were happy to find a home for their discarded junk — old chairs, bikes, tires, shopping carts, and much, much more. Purifoy's museum presents this “junk” as art, incorporated into the many pieces that fulfilled his inventive vision.

Noah Purifoy had an ingenious point of view, and a fertile imagination. He often expressed opinions on social events in his art.



Below: a video and pictures of some of his artworks.






Link to website for directions and hours:


Share this page on Facebook:

DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up below or read more about the DesertUSA newsletter here. (It's Free.)

The Desert Environment
The North American Deserts
Desert Geological Terms


Enter Email:

Shop desert store

Copyright © 1996- and Digital West Media, Inc. - -