Noah Purifoy (1917-2004) came out to L.A. from Alabama in the 1950s and created his assemblage sculptures there until he relocated to Joshua Tree in the late 1980s. For the last 15 years of his life, he created this outdoor museum.
Having trolled around on dirt roads for much of the day looking for the A-Z sites, by the time I started searching for the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum it was inching towards sunset. But I thought at the very least I would figure out where it was and return the next day. My GPS was leading me on all kinds of dead-end dirt roads, and just when I thought I was not going to find it, I saw a little handmade sign that read “Noah’s Art Site” with an arrow. Yes! The sun had already dipped behind the mountains as I parked and walked into the outdoor museum.
As I began to take photographs I noticed all these feelings welling up in me. Maybe it was the heartbreakingly beautiful, fading desert light against the multitude of pieces just sitting in the elements. I was shocked at how many there were. I was a bit frenzied, but also filled with an incredible feeling of joy. Much of the subject matter of these pieces is not really light, but that is what I felt. Joy. The intricacy of some pieces, the sense of humor in others, it really stirred me up. And then, as if on cue, a dog started howling in the distance, and as I shot until the very last bit of light remained, dogs all over the valley began howling in the distance. My experience here was unspeakably special.
Although the Noah Purifoy Foundation encourages visitors to book a guided tour, having this place to myself at sunset, and then again when I returned the next day at sunrise presented such a special opportunity to have a uniquely personal experience—Doves cooed the entire time I was there in the morning.