The intrepid, outdoorsy travelers among you have likely already explored the natural wonders of Joshua Tree National Park. Just a couple hours drive from Los Angeles, it feels like another world—but not just because of the iconic rock formations and sweeping desert views.
Unexpectedly, or perhaps not, there are an impressive number of eclectic art installations here, each fitting the surroundings in its own way, and taking advantage of the unique and diverse energy of the land.
In San Bernardino County‘s high desert is a white, two-story domed building you may already know: The Integratron was built in the 1950s by ufologist George Van Tassel, based upon a dream he had in which residents of Venus (uh huh, the planet) told him to build it. Constructed entirely of wood—some of which was donated by the famous Texan-turned-Hollywood tycoon Howard Hughes—the Integratron was designed to harness and amplify the magnetic fields of the area within its dome, in order to “recharge energy into living cell structure,” according to Van Tassel. Today, it’s used as a place for sound baths. Visitors relax on mats on the second floor to the sound of quartz bowls tuned to the seven chakras. // 2477 Belfield Blvd (Landers), integratron.com
You’ve probably never seen anything quite like this before. Here 40 large white statues trace the life of Christ, featuring a 10-foot tall, 50-ton Christ reminiscent of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Visitors can wander amongst the steel-reinforced concrete sculptures within the 3.5 acres near the town of Yucca Valley. While there are clearly religious implications in the subject matter, it was designed in the 1950s to be a “light for world peace.” // 56200 Sunnyslope Dr. (Yucca Valley), desertchristpark.org
At Harrison House Music, Arts & Ecology, this is a piece of the Bay Area in the desert—literally. One-hundred years after the birth of musician Lou Harrison, his birthday was celebrated with a 24-hour party and the dedication of a gate created from original 1936 steel from the Oakland-San Francisco bridge. Along with the steel beams are fanciful depictions of the desert region’s flora and fauna. Harrison’s desert retreat is, in itself, impressive: The straw bale structure has a large vaulted room ideal for playing and listening to music, and the getaway has visiting artists in residence and a variety of public events throughout the year. // 6881 Mt Lassen Ave (Joshua Tree), louharrisonhouse.org
Noah Purifoy was a legendary assemblage artist, born more than 100 years ago, who created a sprawling 10-acres worth of art installations near Joshua Tree. Over the course of two decades, he worked on 100+ sculptures made from “junk” that would otherwise have been thrown away from toilets to folding chairs to clothes. // 63030 Blair Ln. (Joshua Tree), noahpurifoy.com
In the town of Joshua Tree, the Art Queen was designed by Shari Elf, a singer-songwriter and a fan of creating art from trash, and Randy Polumbo, a visual artist whose work has been displayed at Coachella, as a space to celebrate “art for art’s-sake.” The six buildings and the land around them feature art of all styles, much of it Burning Man–esque, but it also includes more traditional work. Artists are happy to speak with you about their inspiration, and each visit will likely include new pieces. // 61855 Twentynine Palms Hwy (Joshua Tree), facebook.com
Also founded by the Art Queen’s Shari Elf, this small neon green building, about the size of a bus, used to be a Fotomat Booth. As you might guess, it’s filled with row upon row of crocheted items. The quirky museum in the Art Queen has been featured in HSBC ads in airports around the world. // 61855 Twentynine Palms Highway (Joshua Tree), sharielf.com/museum
Repurposing items in all conditions is a trend seen throughout the desert. At Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, on the famed Old Route 66, is a veritable forest of 200-plus metal trees with glass bottles as branches. You’ll also find an impressive collection of vintage toys and other household items. Ideally, be there on a breezy day to add the soundtrack of the glass-like wind chimes. Elmer himself visits often and loves to talk about his unique creation. // 24266 National Trails Hwy (Oro Grande), yelp.com
In the 1940s, Hollywood investors including Roy Rogers and Gene Autry recreated an 1870s frontier town in the high desert that would be used as a set for dozens of movies in the ’40s and ’50s. Now it’s a tourist attraction, complete with reenactments on the occasional weekend. From a tavern to a stagecoach to a general store and a cemetery, it has everything you could want in a fake ghost town. Plus, it has one of the best live music venues around—Pappy + Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace—as well as the Pioneertown Motel, which has just a handful of rooms available. // visitcalifornia.com
Seeking a stylish spot to rest your head? Check out the Instagram sensation that is the Joshua Tree House.
Source: 7×7 sf The Weird and Wild Art of Joshua Tree