Laurel Seidl’s first experience with desert was hitch hiking from Carson City to Las Vegas in 1966. In this episode we learn Laurel has quite a bit of hitch hiking experience.
Laurel moved to the desert in 1982. Her parents lived in a homestead cabin on property at the edge of Twentynine Palms, near Wonder Valley. Laurel and her future husband at the time decided they would purchase a piece of desert property in the same area – ten acres off Amboy Road - as a wedding gift to themselves. It wasn’t until they came to Twentynine Palms for their wedding that Laurel learned her parents’ property was up for sale. She and her new husband bought it.
The property has been a farm, where Laurel and her husband raised rabbits commercially, as well as housing goats, livestock, chickens, geese, ducks, cats and dogs. After a few years, a rabbit disease made its way through the rabbit sheds, then an earthquake came and Laurel decided the animals weren’t doing well, so her husband picked up gun smithing for the local Sheriffs and California Highway Patrol officers.
Laurel held a number of jobs in the area: as a cook on the base and local nursing home, school bus driver, and bartender. After a few years of this, Laurel found her health was declining and she was no longer able to work. This is when she decided to return to her art. Laurel painted saw blades, feathers, rocks, spoons… none of which had a desert theme. She felt there were plenty of other artists in the desert that were doing that well. She says, “They could even paint the air pink.” Laurel became a member of a local gallery, but because her work did not depict desert scenes for tourists, her work was not shown. Looking starting thinking about the buildings on her own property and hired a cowboy who was renting a trailer on her property to start making the buildings into art galleries and after 18 months, Laurel had her first gallery room.
Laurel suggested a gentlemen who’d helped with the construction – and created art – be the first show at the gallery. Eventually, Laurel started asking artists if they’d like to have a show and many were surprised to learn there would be no gallery fee or commission on their work. Laurel had only three requirements of the artists: advertise the show, furnish food for the opening reception and gallery sit on the weekends. These days, there are only two requirements: the artist’s do their own advertisement and furnish the food – Laurel sits the gallery, welcoming visitors and talking with them about the artists and their work.
The gallery has also had its share of mentions as ‘odd’ places to visit in California – most of the time Laurel discovers this by word of mouth or by talking with visitors, as she does not have a computer or cell phone.
We also learn the inspiration behind the actual glass outhouses – there are now two.
In addition to showing the work of artists from the Morongo Basin, work has been shown from artists as far away as Chicago and Kentucky.
Prior to beginning the renovation and creation of the new gallery rooms, the list of artists booked to show in the space ran all the way to 2024. After a messy encounter with someone she’d hired to do the concrete work for the new galleries, Laurel found herself deep in a financial pit and ended up taking a loan and using a credit card to get the galleries completed. Laurel makes it clear, "The gallery is not a non-profit, nor is it 'for profit'. If after hearing Laurel’s story, you are so moved, please go to the fundraiser on Go Fund me and make a donation. Here is the link: https://uk.gofundme.com/f/keep-the-arts-alive-in-wonder-valley
Join eight artists alongside Laurel and Frank as the new galleries open on Saturday, September 11, 2021 from 5 to 9 p.m.