Dominique Moody and her newly completed tiny house “Nomad 46” pulled up to our address in June of 2016 on her maiden voyage of realizing her dream of being a mobile artist in residence. She picked Joshua Tree to travel to from LA in order to honor the late Noah Purifoy who was an elder of her artistic lineage. Over 20 months Dominique Moody created her homage to Purifoy at the Harrison House Arts & Ecology Center.
The synchronicity of discovering her and extending an invitation to be in residence, just as the idea for the ecology site was germinating was magic. She was a match made in heaven because of her special gift for creating artful living environments with found materials. I wondered whether being legally blind for several decades played into her development of some other special sense? Wherever it came from by the time she left Dominique helped to envision and realize the overall aesthetics of the place that she stamped with her genius.
Her first move was to have us “circle the wagons” by placing all the mobile living units in relationship to one another thereby, creating a feeling of community. And of course, her gorgeous and graceful home made everything else look shabby—specifically a1940s 27’ trailer that had seen better days. We agreed that it needed a mural… but who to paint it? Overnight Dominique came back with the idea that her brother Dana, who was on summer vacation from the school he created sets for in Philly, could take on the project. It was a wise use of airline miles to send for Dana who in about 6 weeks gave the old thing new life with an astonishing mural that reflects the surrounding desert environment.
Dominique, one of eight children comes from an exceptionally creative family that she has very strong ties to. Much of her work grows out of the narrative of their lives. As an assemblage artist Dominique was trying to discover and extend the story of our place, too. She proceeded to organize all of the materials that had been tossed helter-skelter into huge piles by construction workers and handy people over many years. Slowly and methodically, she evaluated everything available to her, organizing as she went.
Upon uncovering stacks of irregularly shaped pieces of plywood she asked if they could be used for a fence? I cried“hallelujah!” Those are the forms from the straw bale vault across the street that I have been saving for nearly 15 years to make a fence out of! She proceeded to tint them with pigments that had been collected by Lou Harrison and adorn sections with bottles after they were attached to what was once a horse corral. The piece is titled “Three Sistas’ Dreamin of Earth Worms Dancin’ dedicated to the continual motion of life, the cycles of nature, the summation of all parts to create the whole.
Dominique went on to outfit the newly installed solar shower with repurposed wood fencing and boxcar siding including the wooden placard that once hung on Lou’s Aptos fence that reads “please enter there is no dog inside.”
The final work that she did was the grand entrance stretching about 100 feet into the Arts & Ecology Center, made of hand shaped earthen berms adorned with mosaic stone patterns and plants topped with colored bottles, it shimmer in the afternoon light.
I could go on and on about Dominique Moody because I learned so much from her through our daily meetings discussing the site, it’s purpose and the myriad projects at hand. To watch her fold a simple plastic bag with intention and respect taught me to find value in every material object around me. And the difference between junk and art is how it’s placed.
Also coming up at Harrison House in December, American choreographer Mark Morris will be in residence. joined by two of his company members Maile Okamura, dancer, and Colin Jacobsen violinist for a discussion about Lou Harrison and his impact on their work. We will record his remembrances, during a major donor’s gathering that we will release at a later date.
EVA SOLTES is a prolific performing arts producer, dancer, and documentarian, who has championed the work of gifted artists and underserved art forms for decades. She is the Founder/ Director of Harrison House Music, Arts & Ecology, a residency/performance program based in the late Lou Harrison’s straw bale retreat in Joshua Tree, California. Soltes enjoyed a multi-faceted personal and professional relationship with Lou Harrison that spanned nearly 30 years. During that time, she developed a large body of media on the composer, culminating in her feature length documentary, LOU HARRISON: A World of Music, which has been called “wizardly” (SF Chronicle) and “affecting” (The New Yorker).
All photography by Eva Soltes (c) 2016
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