CALIFORNIA CITY – Some visitors to the High Desert seek its rural landscape as a refuge from society’s roadblocks to creativity. But one artist has embraced it as a wasteland of inspiration for a doorway into America’s abyss.
“Hello, my name is Dennis Rudolph and I came here all the way from Germany to build a portal between heaven and hell,” the artist told the Antelope Valley Times, summing up a visionary quest that proposes to put the High Desert on the map as a new destination for the arts.
Rudolph’s work, ‘Paradise Lost: California City’, depicts this remote location of the Mojave High Desert as an artificially constructed paradise that was envisioned by its early founders as a modern utopian metropolis.
Among the projects installed by Rudolph this past winter is “The Portal,” which is an outdoor collection of eclectic sculptures located off the 14 Freeway just before Lutie Avenue on California City Boulevard. His sculpture features images of missing children from California that are rendered in a clay doorway, presented as a monument to their stories so they will not be forgotten.
Rudolph’s work is featured in a KCET Artbound article (view it here) by Antelope Valley artist and educator Larissa Nickel, who explained that the German artist’s work is a valuable depiction of the Antelope Valley region for its “incredibly interesting space” in terms of its history, environment and social realm.
“These aspects are all intriguing to artists,” Nickel said in an email to the AV Times. “As desert communities we can all support the arts and the investigations or creative expressions to the benefit of our area.”
Nickel said that Rudolph traveled from Germany to California – and having discovered California City, he found something passionate to himself and his art practice.
“The main message from Dennis’ artwork is that pursuit of art is a worthy endeavor – the quest and the journey of curiosity, exploration and creation all matter – anywhere you live,” Nickel said.
Cast your vote for the High Desert project – Paradise Lost
Nickel’s Mar. 24 article, “Paradise Lost: The Portal in California City,” is currently competing for readers’ votes on the Artbound website to be selected and produced as a short-format video documentary – and possibly featured as part of KCET’s television broadcast.
The deadline to vote for her article is April 21 at www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/vote, and Nickel said she hopes the contest will help bring Antelope Valley art to a national audience.
Rudolph is hopeful that other artists will identify with his intense experience of setting up a studio in the High Desert to ultimately work through one’s vision.
“I’ve been working on the idea and the concept for two years now,” he said. “Nine months of that in California between L.A. and California City, last three months intensively in Cal City in a converted school trailer standing next to my studio in a hangar at the airport.”
More than being drawn to the gorgeous landscape and the “crazy stars at night,” Rudolph said his attraction to the remote Mojave Desert location is stirred by the idea of “what America might be or maybe was.”
“I love California City, but it is the end of the world, which makes it the right place to put a gateway to heaven and hell there,” he said. “Actually, someone at a party on Mount Washington in L.A. told me to build the portal here. I drove all the way without sleeping and immediately felt this was it.”
Nickel also supports the cultural and aesthetic values of the High Desert through her arts collaboration, Hinterculture, which seeks to “reveal the hidden and overlooked stories of the desert hinterlands to expand the perception and understanding of art and space.”
Visit her arts collaboration online at www.facebook.com/pages/Hinterculture/141017792732330.