Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Desert Center



My son made this film for his senior year at ASU. His themes in art are all about memories and abandoned places and the blight on old boomtowns. This was taken at Desert Center in California and he used some interesting techniques to get the look. He wanted to do it with his 8mm camera but developing would take too long, so he found out something you often find in art, if you run into a roadblock it can take you to wonderful places. He filmed, edited, and made the sounds for the video. The idea is sort of an old home movie feel of visiting what was supposed to be a huge boomtown and visiting it like a tourist even though it's all dead. It's very haunting and at times I wish I could put my eye to the eyepiece and see it all, but that's part of the charm--it leaves you feeling like you had a strange dream...

p.s. He's always fantastic at naming projects. He looked it up and during the dustbowl era, they planted a plant call the tamarisk because it held up to the dustbowl, but it eventually took over like kudzu does in the south. I thought it was a great name

In Julie and I's series of Abandoned Places: Abandoned Memories we plan to try and include this town in a vanished cities edition.

Steve Ragsdale, a minister, founded the town around 1915. It was a wild dream of having a town in the middle of the desert between LA and Phoenix, a regular oasis. A a cafe, school and more buildings were erected. 

This crazy dreamer thought he could induce folks to come and live there and work there. He sent for a teacher and built a schoolhouse of cardboard which the goats promptly got loose and ate.  He had big dreams for it and they included no booze, he was a teetotaler and adamant about "no drunks allowed."

He eventually died and his sons took over. A nearby steel corporation and some snowbirds keep the town barely alive today. In the early 90s, one of the Ragsdale sons had hundreds of palm trees erected. When he died in 1999, the trees died off too from neglect, leaving a very eerie tree cemetery. 



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