On the same trip to Southern California this last spring, we discovered another gem just a little off the beaten path, namely the haunting and powerful open air museum dedicated to the work of activist, educator and sculptor Noah Purifoy. Purifoy was born in Alabama and educated at the State Teacher's College there, before moving to California. He was a founding member of the Watts Towers Arts Center and throughout his career used his art as a catalyst for social engagement and change. In the late 1980's he moved permanently to Joshua Tree and began building large scale work on a 10-acre lot in the desert.
I recently went to Los Angeles to visit family, and realized a woodworking hero of mine lived not far from where we were staying. Sam Maloof was born in Chino, California in 1916, and after serving in the Army during WWII started building furniture for himself out of necessity. Commissions started soon after, and as he grew more successful he added room after room to the old lemon grove he and his wife Alfreda had bought in 1948 in Alta Loma. The site is registered as a National Historic Place, and was moved and rebuilt (!) in 2004 as a result of the extension of the I-210 freeway. The Foundation set up by Sam and his wife conducts tours of the house and gardens, and workshops with Maloof's long time employees happen occasionally to give woodworkers an inside look at his techniques and sensibility.