The austere desert landscape of the wild west has long fascinated and inspired artists. Georgia O’Keeffe painted the American desert in images of abstract red mountains, desert wildflowers and iconic portraits of drought defined by bleached bones and skulls. Frederic Remington focused his work on the old American West with intricately detailed paintings of cowboys, Native American Indians and other characters that depicted life in the southwest, all against the backdrop of the intense beauty of the desert.

Today, the arid panorama of the southwest continues to inspire artists, writers and musicians. Art colonies have cropped up in small towns and remote areas where the rugged elegance of the desert is abundant.  There creativity flourishes.

One of the art installations from Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Art Museum.

Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley and the surrounding region have become a mecca for creative souls. Just outside the boundary of the Joshua Tree National Park, artists have set up studios and formed an outpost of creativity.

Wide open spaces filled with light and the low cost of real estate have drawn modern artists looking to escape the confines of city life. They are finding inspiration in the serene desert environment and moving from small city studios to ranches with plenty of space for experimentation and large outdoor installations.

Many of the new studios are located in rustic settings, on private property. In order to market and showcase their work, the creative residents open their studios to the public during The Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours over two weekends in October.   Visit their Facebook page and click events for current dates or visit their website.

Several art exhibitions and outdoor installations are free and open to the public year round. Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Art Museum is open to the public 365 days a year.  There is no charge to visit the outdoor museum.  Noah’s art pieces are considered “assemblage art” – created from junked objects he found in the desert. Most tourists take a self-guided tour through the large art installations. Guided tours for groups are available on the weekends.

The High Desert Test Sites’ self-guided tour map highlights each of the art installation’s destinations, along with a description of what you will discover there. It’s a great way to explore the desert and experience outdoor art in the natural desert environment.

High Desert Test Sites

Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Art Museum

Art in Public Places …

29 Palms Inn & Restaurant
3950 Inn Ave., Twentynine Palms

Joshua Tree Library
6465 Park Blvd.,  Joshua Tree

Las Palmas Mexican Cuisine
55792 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley

Pie for the People Pizzeria
61740 Twentynine Palms Hwy., Joshua Tree

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Lynn Bremner is the author of, a blog about desert road trips and tips. She started the blog after moving to Indio, CA where she now resides. Now a true desert dweller, Lynn has added in some of her own views on desert living. The heat does not keep her indoors in the summertime. She is out running, golfing or taking short day trips to some of the local points of interest. After years of traveling along the dusty, desert trails with her father, she has come to appreciate the beauty and solitude of the desert landscape. Her father’s passion for prospecting, desert lore and exploring the desert parks took their family to many interesting places, mostly in California, Nevada and Arizona. Lynn now writes about her desert road trips and intertwines a little bit of desert living into the mix.


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