- Molly Keen
Mural in the Desert
Where: Joshua Tree, California – Joshua Tree National Park at the Joshua Tree Music Festival; 8ft x 10 ft; Acrylic paint; 2016
Hot sticky dry heat; the type of heat that makes you want to shower with your clothes on. Gusts of wind make the sun bearable as live melodic music floats through the air leaving traces of dance moves. Joshua Tree Music Festival in Joshua Tree, California is a unique festival with gorgeous scenery and over 4 unique music stages with quality music from all over the world. I have found myself here for the second season in a row. It is a magical place located in South Eastern California and the park is slightly larger than that of Rhode Island. It is huge! It straddles the San Bernadino county and Riverside county border and has over two desserts, the Mojave and the Colorado each with their own ecosystem and different elevations.
The Final Piece.
Not much to see, but that is what is so beautiful about the art process. People do not know when it is done. They ask me all the time “Are you done” when I have barely begun. Process is so important because it teaches you not to be attached to the piece and to what the viewer thinks. I go through different layers of my art and it is hard to share this process sometimes. People ask me about it, want to know more. And to be honest, I do not sketch and I myself do not actually know what the final piece is going to look like. I prefer not knowing, and letting the experience of the setting, environment and people around me shape the way that I paint. That is super important to me, and talking about the piece is something I want to do, but more so on what the viewer experiences rather than what I intended the piece to be. We have so many opportunities in life to be told what to do, what to experience and what we should see. I want my artwork to be something that is always right, because it is a feeling and unique to each viewer.
I painted a total of 3 days in almost 100 degree weather and high blowing winds. It was not the easiest of tasks. Not to mention the fact that the board I was painting on was also moving with the wind! It was quite the experience. I had lots of patience and of course, the festival to take breaks and enjoy. I met so many wonderful people while painting. I was quite engaged with a handful of people that would come to me once or twice a day, check in and talk about the process. Many were surprised with the final piece. They would tell me that they would have never expected it to get to that point. I like that element of surprise. I had some great photographers take progress shots which was wonderful.
My piece was next to a beautiful art installation about two years old. It was “The Swings” that had two large swings and you could play on them and feel child like with them. People loved the swings. They would stop at the swings way more often then they would look at my painting but of course, the painting was an after thought and they did come and see it if they were not too blissed out from the swing. I liked this experience because I could hear laughter of adults, children and older people that were so thrilled to have the swing experience. I think this had something to do with my painting. That emotion of you tummy going up and down, up and down. As well as the feeling of letting go. The laughter. Children saying “THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE”. And there I was, quiet, observing in a secret spot just taking in all of the energy around me. Quite peaceful. It was a stunning installation. I was quite happy to be working alongside of it. The photo above, the rainbow metal structure is the swing.
There was also one interaction that really struck me and I will never forget. I was done with my painting, I had just finished on the Sunday, the last day of the festival. The sun was setting, I had taken all the pictures, cleaned up and was just sitting. I was looking at the final piece, wondering how I even created it and admiring the work, time and energy that I put into it. This was a contrast to the energy of the festival as people were running around and listening to music and dancing and I was able to exist in this alternative reality.So there I find myself admiring my piece alone.
It is the last day and unfortunately the swings broke! No one was allowed to use them and they still would try to use them. I would do my best to tell people the bad news and ironically they would become more aware of my painting and I met more people this way. There were two women specifically that were trying to swing, and I said sorry-the swings are closed. Their attention was brought to my painting and they were speaking about it in front of it, not knowing I was the artist. I finally let them know that I painted it, and they were excited to chat about it. I told them my story about my mother and how I paint in her memory and the woman told me that she does the same. Her father passed just two years before and we had a wonderful time sitting in front of my painting connecting and getting to know one another. Really special and made me realize that in putting yourself out there, being vulnerable not only with painting in front of people, but in
The mural took me about 20 hours total to paint, I used house paint that I got from ACE hardware. Just the basic colors and I mixed them. I use paint brushes and all is detailed with hand and paintbrush. I prefer the old fashioned way! I hope you enjoy the mural, whatever you see is what you are supposed to see. It is meant to be specific to the individual. Enjoy and thank you Joshua Tree for inviting me to paint with you!
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