Entropy in the Desert


Entropy, that sneaky and tricky thermodynamic property of matter that states that all systems are moving toward a state of disorder or decomposition, is an interesting idea to posit against most artworks that we find dotting and colouring this world of ours.


When I create art, it is usually of two forms: knitting or metalsmithing. Knitting, of course, is usually of organic material like wool and would, no doubt, succumb to its fate of disintegration via rotting fairly quickly. I give natural knit goods a shelf life of about 100 years if they are very lucky.


Metals are different; they should last forever, although we know that they do not. Even though I can clutch a sheet of silver in my hand, feel its resistance to my skin and its length, width and depth, I know that this item before me, while appearing to be solid, is made of molecules that are slowly, slowly, moving through space, as am I. Despite my best efforts, every piece of jewelry that I make is an expression of destruction or at least of moving atoms within sheets of silver or gold. Despite not changing the element itself, I am forever damaging it, bending it to my will, encouraging its dissolution over time. We all know that iron rusts, that wood rots, but silver and gold can last centuries shoved into old jars, the corners of rooms buried under volcanoes, inside pyramids, or lost in the folds of ancient cloth.


Despite my chosen art form’s ability to withstand the only constant in our world, change, or at least to resist it with an enviable spirit, there are artists out there who encourage destruction and change in their work. They seem to relish the power of weathering forces of water and wind, they love rust, melting, and the dissolving of their artworks. The spirit behind their artworks even seems to be to encourage an observation of our world’s constant trajectory toward destruction in the form of change. Oh our Dynamic Earth.


I give you photos from the Noah Purifoy Sculpture Garden, located in Joshua Tree, California. If you wish to visit the sculpture garden, and you most certainly should, you have to email the foundation and they will send you directions. This seems to be an integral part of the experience of his sculptures, and I do not wish to violate their wishes here.


I first learned of Noah Purifoy‘s sculpture park via trolling on Atlas Obscura. Atlas Obscura is one of my favorite websites and I typically will spend hours exploring its vast collection-house-style listings of weird places to visit across the globe. I do this especially when I am planning a trip, or thinking about going to a destination. (I realized today that I have spent about 9 weeks of the last year traveling; it’s been a good year. I went to Austin twice, Mexico twice, New York many times, Maine several times, New Jersey a few times, Los Angeles/ the surrounding desert once, and now New Orleans. Not bad for a year.)


Noah Purifoy was an assemblage sculptor who lived in Los Angeles for most of his life, moving to Joshua Tree in 1996. He died in 2004 when a fire burned his home. He leaves us a legacy of sculptures that are intentionally left outside, in the desert, in the wind and the occasional burst of rain, to be destroyed, ever so slowly. The wind that whips around and through these sculptures licks particles off their surfaces each day; it is clear that no two visits to the sculptures would be the same.


“Seeing my work would be an incentive for you to do today what you couldn’t do yesterday, whatever it is.”

– Noah Purifoy


Those are bees a-buzzin’!

You can email the Noah Purifoy Foundation at tarashall@att.net anytime you are in the Joshua Tree area. Joshua Tree is a town that borders Joshua Tree National Park, and is somewhere between 3-4 hours outside of Los Angeles.

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