Every month on Means & Matters, we look at an artist, creative project, or exhibition that helps people view sustainability through a unique lens. In our inaugural Artist Spotlight, we feature The Mojave Project by California artist Kim Stringfellow, which explores the desert's physical, cultural, and historical landscape.
An iconic landscape of the American Southwest, the Mojave Desert stretches across more than 47,000 square miles—from the edges of the Los Angeles metropolitan area into Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. It includes cherished Native American homelands, unique ecosystems and habitats, four national and state parks, popular tourism regions, the gambling mecca of Las Vegas, and various ghost towns.
Visual artist Kim Stringfellow explores the physical, geological, and cultural landscape of the desert in her transmedia and documentary website, The Mojave Project. Stringfellow brings to life in art and words a desert landscape enriched by diversity—including the Chemehuevi Indian Salt Song singers, artists, rock climbers, botanists, UFO seekers, rockhounds, and rocketeers.
“One of the goals of The Mojave Project is to break down perceptions and stereotypes of the people who inhabit this desert in the past and present,” Stringfellow says. “The Mojave Desert is a sacred landscape and home for many distinct Indigenous tribal communities since time immemorial. These Native people continue to thrive here and are often leading environmental stewardship of this landscape. Consider the efforts and activism of Mojave, Southern Paiute, with other tribal and non-tribal groups during the 1990s to protect the sacred landscape of Ward Valley from being used as a low-level radiation dump.”
Sustainability and climate-change ecology are recurring themes throughout the project’s thoroughly researched field dispatches.
“The Mojave Desert’s vast and varied resources—minerals, sunlight, and even water—have been extensively mined,” says Stringfellow. “As we move toward our renewable energy future, it is crucial that we properly site and manage solar, wind, and mineral extraction associated with these sustainable technologies to protect, rather than exploit, this sublime landscape.”
In The Mojave Project, dispatches on groundwater management and its implications for Southern California, resource exploitation and extraction, and indigenous land rights examine these important issues in detail. Other pieces serve as guides to the desert’s natural and cultural riches, illuminating the diverse ways people have adapted to living in the desert while considering the ways people use the desert as a place of contemplation and renewal. The dispatches are illustrated by Stringfellow’s vivid photographs, interactive maps, video, and historical documents.
The artist’s engagement with local communities, experts, tribal elders, and historians is at the core of her deep research, and she considers the collaborative process of developing the project to be part of her social practice art-making. The project has also included field trips, exhibitions, and publications.
The intimate and nuanced portrait of place created by The Mojave Project invites the viewer into a world of discovery, offering an experience similar to touring the landscape with an informed, long-time resident of the desert.
Visit The Mojave Project website and follow on Instagram for updates on upcoming field dispatches and events.
All images © Kim Stringfellow 2014-2020.
Five More California-Based Artists with Eyes on the Environment
This month, we also highlight the work of five other California-based artists whose work examines various aspects of the environment.
These artists foster the exploration of urgent environmental issues and bring attention to the interrelationship between ecosystems and society. Their work prompts us to pay closer attention to the natural world. While their subject matter and art-making practices may vary, they all provide inspiration for imagining new futures for our world.