Swimming pools. They make gorgeous backdrops for entertaining, offer a great way to exercise, and above all are just fun to frolic in. And if you live in the Palm Springs Valley, they’re pretty much a necessity to beat the heat, especially in those dog days of summer—my favorite time of year! To celebrate all things pool-like, the Palm Springs Art Museum offers a great exhibit called “Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982.” It runs through the end of May 2012. Part of the Pacific Standard Time initiative that brought together 60 cultural institutions to celebrate the birth of Southern Californian art, this show is a must-see for those visiting our area. www.psmuseum.org
Backyard pool culture is represented by video clips shown on large flat-screen TVs as well as by hundreds of archival photographs by some of the most famous photographers in the world, including David Hockney, Herb Ritts, Diane Arbus, Jim French, and Julius Shulman. I loved seeing the shots of some of our famous and easily recognizable landmark architecture, as well as famous faces cavorting in and around pools throughout the desert. The show traces art and cultural history within a number of thematic groups that include architecture and design, Hollywood and celebrity, suburbia, and gay culture. It even dives a bit into the Pacific Ocean.
The 250-page catalogue is gorgeous and contains hundreds of color and black and white images from the show, along with some great art commentary. Pools—each and everyone in their own way a piece of art—are iconic to the desert culture. I know I couldn’t live without mine in Rancho Mirage.