I was excited to meet her, a woman in the desert who collected “stuff” and made it art. She was described as the Noah Purifoy of 29, but still around and still creating. Invited out here by Kelly, an artist and massage therapist based out of the Anaheim area. A creator, like me. She reached out in hopes of getting some one to document Gillian’s home since there was a possibility of her getting evicted and her art being moved and/or demolished. Kelly wanted it be captured, if not for us but for Gillian.
I met Kelly on a Monday in the early afternoon at her home in 29 Palms, with my cubs in tow. A beautiful opportunity for them to meet some new people, and get immersed in a different kind of art. After a short drive through a winding dirt road, and passing dilapidated homesteads along the way, pull up to a house guarded by a pack of dogs that greet us as we roll up. Their barks peaking some nerves in both the kids and I. Kelly reassures us that it’s safe and they won’t do anything, “they’re strays that were saved.” We walk up to the left of the house, where an Airstream sits under a makeshift balcony with a metal spiral staircase. The space surrounding the Airstream is jaw dropping, everything and anything you can think of spread out between pathways and the natural landscape. The broken, the forgotten, the trash that we all toss out at the first sight of an imperfection laid out in perfect order. Well as perfect as Gillian sees it. Where we see trash, she sees an opportunity to make it shine, which she does with a spray of a water hose.
We approach Gillian as she works on a portion of her Rainbow Glass area, a part of her landscape dedicated to glass in various colors. It’s beautiful, she is so proud of her space and she quickly got to showing us around. Pointing out pieces, all of which had stories. Everything we picked up or pointed out she would recall how it came to her possession. Storytelling being one of my favorite things a person can do, most of us not realizing we are doing it and how we pick the right words to describe a moment. I could tell that Gillian’s stories meant the world to her, since the world has been somewhat closed off to her. Kelly had mentioned when we pulled in that Gillian suffers from epilepsy, so if she were to fall at any time we shouldn’t be worried, but we should just make sure she’s safe. As we walk through her property, she often touches on the subject with “well I just don’t want to be a burden” or “I’m just a hard one to take out and drive with.”
Looking around her space, it’s noticeably a fortress to her, a place where she is safe from herself as well as the outside world. A horse towering over the property, a Pegasus made of bike metal ready to charge at any intruders. A labyrinth of treasures old, and stories told. She’s not a damsel in distress though, a quote sits at the window of her work station inside the Airstream stating so, “Don’t fashion me a maiden that needs saving from a dragon. I am the dragon, and I will eat you whole.” A powerful statement from a fragile woman, living in the middle of the desert hardened by her surroundings.
To be continued…
I’m not done telling Gillian’s story, I’m only just scratching the surface and in the coming months I will be documenting more of her and will hopefully have a chance to share more of her story. If you would like to know how you can help Gillian during this time of fighting for her home and space, please reach out. She is a beautiful soul an absolute delight to be around and can tell you stories for days.