High Desert Test Sites is a nonprofit arts institution that supports and stewards experimental artwork in the Joshua Tree region. We support programs that intersect contemporary art with everyday life, creating intimate exchanges between individuals, artworks, landscape, and community, challenging art to be relevant both to a region and beyond.
Since 2002, High Desert Test Sites—cofounded by Andrea Zittel, Andy Stillpass, John Connelly, Shaun Regen and Lisa Anne Auerbach—has hosted the work of more than 450 artists, 11 expansive site-specific programs, and 25 solo projects.
Who We Are
PO Box 1058
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Office hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-5pm PST
Vanesa Zendejas - Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elena Yu - Assistant Director of Programming, email@example.com
Connor Schwab - Facilities and Grounds Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sydney Foreman - Director’s Assistant and Visitor Services, email@example.com
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Shaun Caley Regen
WEBSITE AND DESIGN
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
David Knaus - Chair
Andrea Zittel - Founding Director/Treasurer
Brooke Hodge - Secretary
Marilyn Loesberg - Member
Susan Lubeznik - Member
Aram Moshayedi - Member
High Desert Test Sites is grateful to The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Tides Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation - Arts Regranting Program/Inland Empire at The Community Foundation, Strengthening Inland Southern California through Philanthropy, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Ranch Projects, California Arts Council, Sky Village Swap Meet, Copper Mountain Mesa Community Association and our generous donors for their support over the years.
When HDTS was founded in 2002, part of the original mission was to run on a zero budget. The idea was to support artistic visions in practical terms—provide help, guidance, tools, a cot, and infinite space. For many years this worked and it produced self-driven projects that were ambitious and independently spirited.
Over the past ten years, HDTS has been working towards building a more substantial funding structure for artists’ projects. This has included hosting recurring fundraising projects such as our Artist Painted Rock Auction, Gem/Mineral Expo, pop-ups at art fairs and art museums, and producing limited edition artworks for sale.
But these endeavors never quite add up to what we need—to pay our artists fairly, for venue rentals, for staff, liability insurance, the bookkeeper, to feed our volunteers, pay for all-terrain forklift rentals, and so much more.
As our programs grow every year, so does our budget. And although we make every effort to raise the money that we need with Andrea’s self-sufficient spirit in tow, we still rely on support from donors to make it all happen.
HDTS has been a registered 501c3 since 2013. Please consider a gift in any amount to help us in providing access to engaging, experimental, contemporary art in the high desert region.
Donate via PayPal, via Venmo (@hdts_azwest), or via check:
PO Box 1058 Joshua Tree CA 92252
Many past HDTS projects have only been temporarily sited, but some are permanent and scattered throughout the Morongo Basin. The best way to find these works is to follow the directions on our current HDTS driving map. This map also includes sites we’ve partnered with in the past and admire as independent projects. Most HDTS works are located at sites that we regularly activate and operate out of. Those sites include:
Our new base of operations, A-Z West is Andrea’s lifelong project, where she lived and worked for 20 years before handing the keys to HDTS in 2022. Located a few minutes outside downtown Joshua Tree, this 85-acre compound includes four restored homestead cabins, several experimental living structures, permanent sculptures, 4,000 square foot studio space, and pristine desert landscape.
Public tours of A-Z West are offered every 2 weeks, alternating between 1-hour outdoor only tours, and 2-hour tours that include most interiors. Tickets for these tours can be purchased through the West Works store. All funds raised from tour ticket sales support HDTS programming and general operating expenses.
HDTS office hours at A-Z West are Tuesday through Thursday from 10 am–5 pm. Our office is not open to the public during these hours, but by appointment only. Please email Sydney if you have an inquiry regarding A-Z West.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left, then the next right. At the hanging wooden signs, go straight to park in the Encampment lot, or make a left to go to the house, cabins, or studio.
Behind the Bail Bonds
Sited on this 10-acre boulder strewn parcel adjacent to A-Z West are several works that may take a few hours of exploring to divulge: Morongo by Nathan Lieb, Surveillant Architectures by Julia Scher, and CA Truck Heads by Sarah Vanderlip. Feel free to visit this site sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking and do not block the road.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left. Follow along power lines, park just before the turnaround area.
Andy’s Gamma Gulch
Co-founder Andy Stillpass has generously allowed countless HDTS projects to take place on this wildly beautiful 100-acre parcel north of Pioneertown off of Pipes Canyon Rd. Several works are sited here, includingGradually/We Become Aware/Of a Hum in the Room by Halsey Rodman, Trail Registry by Scout Regalia and Tapwater Pavilion by Tao Urban. Andy’s is also available to visit from sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking or if you do need to park off the side of the road, be careful not to end up in soft sand.
Directions: From Hwy 62 turn right at Pioneertown Rd. Drive about 7.5 miles. Turn right on Pipes Canyon Rd. Drive 2.2 miles to Gamma Gulch Rd, turn left (respect our neighbors – do not drive above 20 mph on this road!) Drive 1.6 miles to God’s Way Love (if the sign has blown off look for Dave & Jeannie’s sign), turn right. Drive 0.4 miles.
Purchased from a tax sale back in the early aughts, this 40-acre site is surrounded by BLM land. Located at the most eastern edge of Wonder Valley, in the Sheephole Valley Wilderness area, this site is a commitment to get out to, and feels like the end of the California high desert before being clearly on the way to Arizona. This flat, sandy, washy land is home to several permanently sited works, including Dineo Seshee Bopape’s HDTS 2022 work, and a mostly “invisible” project: Bob Dornberger and Jim Piatt’s Secret Restaurant. On the opposite side of Ironage Rd and slightly to the north is a work by Kiersten Puusemp (Untitled) that you will probably need to get out of your car and explore a little in order to find. Also accessible from sunup to sundown, be very careful when parking off the side of the road as the sand is very soft here.
Directions: From 29 Palms continue east on Hwy 62. Drive forever (23 miles) and turn left at Iron Age Rd. Drive a mile or so until you see something. (Iron Age Road connects both Amboy Road and Hwy 62, so you can reach it using either access road.)
Give and Take: Iraq War Memorial Tattoo Project
Mary Beth Heffernan
Give and Take: Some war tokens
When you drive up Adobe Road towards the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, the largest Marine base in the country, the road is flanked not by the namesake palms or the decommissioned planes and guns that welcome you at other bases. The sole objects of monumental scale are the town’s “Oasis of Murals,” illustrating local prospecting history, or desert flora and fauna, serving as much as distractions from the yawning adjacent vacant lots as edifying visual narratives. The most ambitious mural, Don Gray’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is surprising in its focus on battle confusion, or Marines rescuing their wounded. Saying “I had to talk myself into this one” because he didn’t want to celebrate war, the mural can’t be seen until you’re heading out of town, or leaving base, depending on whether you’re a tourist or a soldier. Aside from Gray’s haze-filled depiction of brotherly loyalty amidst battlefield confusion, the lion’s share of memorializing takes place nearby in more prosaic places, and on a far more intimate scale.
Brightly lit with florescent lights and smelling of disinfectant, the six or so tattoo studios of Adobe Road exude the antiseptic feeling of the clinic as much as being sirens of what Adolf Loos famously called the crime of ornament. The days when the tattoo parlor attracted only bikers, soldiers and denizens of the underworld have been traded for a professionalization marked by blood-borne pathogen certifications, sterilizers, reams of carefully laid out plastic and examination gloves. So when the Marines go in to get their tattoos (one thing hasn’t changed) the feeling is as much akin to a medical procedure as a ritual wound/image.
As an observer, this scene is filled with a canny likeness to those I experienced 18 years ago as a young DWNAD (Dependent Wife, Navy Active Duty, the icky-sounding acronym pronounced “Dwah-Nad”), a child bride, as my friends called me, married to my long-time neighbor who became a Navy flight surgeon. Attached to a squadrom of Marine helicopter pilots, and periodically sent to 29 Palms for combat training, my then-husband indulged my curiosity about the clinical setting my letting me pose as a medical student so I could, up close, observe him cleaning out wounds, express particularly nasty abscesses, or later, when we became a urologist, cut open testicles and the like. And so I’ve come back to Twentynine Palms; it’s another Bush, another desert war, again a Marine in the chair under the knife or needle, but this time it’s me who’s probing the wounds.
Drawing attention to the fact that Marines get tattoos, even in great numbers, is like reminding us that the sun comes up every day, or that cops are corrupt. But their practice of getting memorial tattoos, sometimes even before heading off to war, is both curious and haunting. At once intimate and monumental on a bodily scale, the tattoos seemed to function as a prompt for both stories and silence. Some buddies design a tattoo together, agreeing to get the tat if one of them dies. Others simply get one, in advance, knowing that one of them will “fall” as they call it. Often, a group will get matching tattoos when they return with a common symbol, or with lists of their dead buddies’ names. More often than not, the design involves some version of the “soldier’s battle cross,” a half-cross, half-skeleton arrangement of a soldier’s helmet atop his rifle, jammed near his empty boots with dog tags hanging down.
The site of my project is not only the bodies of Marines and the images that they create in relation to the war. It’s located in the conversations with the tattooists, waitresses, shopkeepers and residents of the Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree area. It exists in the stories and shared burden of witnessing what happens to the 20 year olds who act as the pointy end of our nation’s foreign policy stick. Extending this sense of exchange, I’ve created a token for you to take with you, and a chance to leave something of your own behind.
—Mary Beth Heffernan (from the HDTS 5 catalogue)
Girl with poster, Mary Beth Heffernan, 2006.
This girl attended HDTS 5 with her mother and twin brother. When she picked up the poster, she draped it around her back and said, “Mommy, I want a tattoo!”
Young Marine being tattooed with the names of the 10 of 2/7 Fox Company Marines who died in a December 1, 2005 blast, Mary Beth Heffernan
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HDTS 5 (2006)
MAY 6, 2006 - MAY 7, 2006