Ghost Palm is an echo of a natural form — a meticulous reconstruction of the largest palm species native to California, the Washingtonia filifera (desert fan palm). Nestled in a plot of low desert, between the foreboding San Andreas Fault path and a line of tamarisk trees, Ghost Palm is a manifestation of the artist’s fascination with the tenuous balance between fragility and sheer power. Standing taller than 20 feet, Ryan’s version of this iconic palm is constructed with manmade materials: steel, plastics and glass. Windowpanes in the style of a Victorian-era greenhouse make up the tree trunk; an iconic midcentury modern chandelier becomes the skirt of the tree; its leaves, a facsimile of Mother Nature’s perfect creation, are recreated in the form of glittering plastics. Drawing directly from nature’s design, the piece is self-reflexively manufactured, contextualized by the environmental features of the low desert landscape. While it is a substantially scaled man-made structure, it is essentially transparent, almost invisible. It becomes visible only when it catches reflections of the sun like a faceted crystal. Beneath Ghost Palm lies the geological activity that created this natural wonder. The San Andreas Fault and the palm tree oases that trace its presence are created by two massive tectonic plates meeting — the North American plate and the Pacific plate. Water running deep underneath the earth pools into these fissures, thus creating lush palm sanctuaries. Ghost Palm mimics what already exists in proximity to it, repositioning itself in nature in an homage. It makes visible our bodily connection to these sites, to the churning of the earth beneath us, and the natural forces we humbly exist within and among.
Listen to an interview with Kathleen Ryan on the Desert X 2019 Podcast here
Bubbling Wells Road at San Gorgonio Street, Desert Hot Springs