I just love how certain Eastern or Midwestern power couples migrate to the Palm Springs Valley and settle in my beautiful home town of Rancho Mirage. When said power couple gets actively involved in the community, making change and improving lives, well, that’s just the icing on the cake! My good pals (and generous philanthropists) Barbara and Jerry Keller quickly come to mind as just such a couple.
Another of Rancho Mirage’s celebrated celebrity dynamic duos is the powerhouse team of Karen and Tony Barone. Now, I know you’ve seen this pair around the valley—she the diminutive beauty with flowing blonde braided tresses and uniquely dramatic eye makeup, he her big lovable bear of a guy. You’ve also seen their work as artists: very large-scale metal sculptures in bright, bold colors. But maybe you never connected the two—that those stunning works of art, which have been exhibited and collected worldwide, were the duo’s doing.
Karen and Tony met while living in Chicago, where together they immediately achieved a high level of artistic success. Next stop was New York City, where these SoHo pioneers worked out of a 4th floor loft. After a stint in East Tennessee, they established a canal-side studio in L.A.’s artsy community of Venice Beach before finally putting down what we all hope are permanent roots in the desert. “Rancho Mirage is our South of France,” says Karen. “The pool is our Lily Pond. [The Palm Springs Valley] is a year-round paradise where our paintings and sculptures are allowed to flourish.”
Here in the desert, Karen and Tony are predominantly known for their creation of ArtAdoption, a program whose principal public initiatives is a kaleidoscopic series of giant 6’-2” steel Dalmatian puppy sculptures titled “R. Hero,” which honors firefighters and first responders. Individual pieces are publically displayed in such spots as Palm Springs Fire Station #3 (“R. Hero Blue”), the University of California in Riverside in Palm Desert (“R. Hero Aqua”), and the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert in Rancho Mirage (“R. Hero Green”). Other sites throughout the Valley boasting Barone public works include the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, and indoors at the Rancho Mirage Public Library.
Just last week, at a special unveiling held at their Rancho Mirage home—to which I was lucky enough to be invited, of course—Tony and Karen (avec family and friends) toasted their latest masterpiece, “Gilded Godiva.” The silver and yellow gold figure depicts Lady Godiva astride Pegasus. “It’s one of our most ambitious free-standing sculptures to date,” says Tony of the 8’-3” marvel. “It mixes metaphors and mythologies.” The piece, which is just the latest of many commissioned by Fashion Week El Paseo, will be exhibited outside the big white tent.
I couldn’t be prouder of Karen and Tony for all the good work they do, for all the joy they spread through their artistic talent. But mostly, I’m just proud to call them friends. Don’t miss a peek at “Gilded Godiva” on El Paseo during Fashion Week. I can promise you’ll be happy you did!