By Katie Nartonis

“Joshua Tree National Park is my local, quiet, big nature, earth-girl walk, meditation, hide-out.”
– Louise Anne Marler (aka L.A. Marler)

Joshua Tree based “artographer,” Louise Marler’s photographic + text works create strong imagery with pop colors that evoke a vintage vibe. Her work embraces the nostalgic feelings conjured by our collective analog past.

Vintage cameras, typewriters, radios and televisions are her best-known series. The images fill the frame – oversized, simplified and colorized in such a way as they become less physical object, and more playful statement. These machines, which once defined modernity, now conjure a collective familiarity and sentimental aesthetic – which Marler captures with grace and wit.

Louise is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and now splits her time between her desert home in Joshua Tree and the midwestern Gateway City. Growing up, her family collected, repaired and sold typewriters. She notes that these machines became a part of her visual expression naturally – “My career is rooted in our family typewriter business with a letter shop in back, early direct mail. Mass communication, publishing, tools-of-the-trade – the original pop art.” While her degree was in Business Administration, a choice she now appreciates, she is a self-taught artist and proud of the accomplishment. A curator she worked with once said, “Everyone else is from the ‘school of’… but, LA Marler is totally original.” She notes, “Growing up in the later third of the 20th century meant knowing analog media, broadcast and publishing. Now with the digital era, all that integrity, fact-checking and control is democratized, for better or worse. My art is about this, developed by this, is part of this.”

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Louise acquired technical expertise through work and school and she has always had a strong drive to master fine art printing. In college she took art classes, and later learned on the job working for printers and publishers. She also studied art and design in “museums, galleries, magazines and books.”

After leaving a job as part of the newspaper union at a daily St. Louis paper, she decided to go West – and she drove her Chevy Cavalier down Route 66 “listening to Depeche Mode.” Once in LA, she rented an apartment and landed a job as a manager at an international magazine.

With the determination of a pioneer, she had made it to the West Coast. She found the joy of paying her own way, indeed the freedom of designing her own lifestyle. She describes that time as “a new era of being a thirdphase feminist.” Later on, she successfully created and sold a commercial printing company, and scored an art studio in a Santa Monica Airport hanger. It was there that she combined her range of mechanical and digital techniques – and developed her unique practice of large format mixed media, and limited- edition prints. Eventually, she added painting and pencil to her photos, and is constantly experimenting with new techniques.

An avid nature-lover and environmentalist, she had camped and enjoyed modest get-aways to Joshua Tree and 29 Palms over the years. When she met a new desert friend, Izzy – she started to visit the desert more often. He happened to be from the same town where she had graduated college, Cape Girardeau Missouri. He was rehabbing houses in the desert, and he inspired her to start to look around. She recalls, “Izzy had sent me a postage-size photo from his flip-top phone and he went to the court house auction for me in March 2010. I bought the house unseen, using the money I had saved from selling my business – and suddenly, I had a huge new job!”

Louise describes the sleepy village of Joshua Tree when she first arrived – “Joshua Tree…was out-back, broken with tumble weeds and biker gangs. After twenty years in the urban jungle, I fell in love with the dust. One-byone I picked up the trash, cigarette butts, broken glass, fed the birds and unwittingly started a second career in home improvement. The neighbors thanked me. As my art career and home improvement work merged, the humble northside home became The Joshua Tree Type Inn.” The Type Inn is now a writer retreat and favorite short-term rental for visitors.

Her hope for the future of the desert community is simple, she entones “Let’s keep it down-to-earth, skygazing dark skies, eye-to-eye friends, environmentalists, active, up-cycling artists that have nice, simple, heathy lives” she remarks. She is also concerned about some of the change she has witnessed, and she notes, “I was hoping to leave the huge egos and what comes with them, such as, entitlement and competitiveness behind. I was also hoping that corporate and luxury would stay in Palm Springs. But that is not happening.”

Currently LA Marler’s work is on view at the Rancho Mirage Public Library – now through the end of February. She notes, ‘It is an honor to be invited again for their 10th Writers Fest and be featured during Modernism Week here.”

She expresses gratitude that she was first discovered by the Rancho Mirage Library while showing with Bobby Furst, at Furstwurld, during Art Tours in 2013. This generosity and support to and from others is important to her, “there are so many artists like myself who are wildly independent. Yet in order to have a real community it needs to be inclusive regardless of age, income, race, education, or religion.” She continues, “I do suggest that new artists show with others. Less tour stops and more collaborations.”

Among the list of collectors of Marlers’ work are film actor Tom Hanks, the Rancho Mirage Library, the Palm Springs Art Museum, the Smithsonian Museum, and Emerson College. Marlers’ unique contemporary style has landed her in national museums and galleries, international private collections, films, and TV Shows, such as: Two and a Half Men, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, Dear White People, Arrested Development, and a documentary film, The Typewriter in the 21st Century, in which she is interviewed. Featured in 2021 NBCLX mental health segment, “Why we are sentimental.”

Marler’s private studio, adjacent to The Joshua Tree TYPE Inn, is located at 5957 Sunset Road, Joshua Tree, CA 92252. She is available by appointment at her desert studio or at the Rancho Mirage Library during normal hours. For additional information visit www.LAMarler.com. Or, follow her on Facebook at L.A. Marler and on Instagram at @LA_Marler.

Katie Nartonis is a writer, curator, film maker and specialist in art and design. Her most recent documentary film, “Jack Rogers Hopkins: Calfornia Design Maverick,” about the late San Diego based mid-century designer-craftsman, premiered during Palm Springs Modernism Week in 2023. She is currently writing “Glimpses of The Joshua Tree Dream,” a book on the way we live in the high desert.

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