Idyllwild Library Hosts All That Jazz

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“Satchmo” Louis Armstrong is captured in this banner by Marcia Gawecki on display at Idyllwild Library. Photo: Idyllwild Library.

















By Julie Pendray

IDYLLWILD, Calif. — Louis Armstrong spent his youth in and out of the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs for “delinquency” in his tough neighborhood known as “the battlefield.” When this grandson of slaves wasn’t housed there, he was passed around for varying lengths of time to different members of his extended family. After his father abandoned his mother, it’s reported she had to go live in the town’s prostitute quarters to make ends meet. Armstrong helped by doing a paper route, hauling coal, and selling food salvaged from trash cans. When the rising singer, cornet and trumpet player could finally put his days of hardship behind him, living in New York and Chicago, he was known for saying that, in spite of it all, New Orleans had given him the gift of music … “something to live for.”

Stories like this of a man who is remembered as one of the major developers of a unique American art form, have inspired Marcia Gawecki to research jazz musicians and paint their  faces on huge eye-catching banners. Her work has decorated The French Quarter at Jazz in the Pines at Idyllwild Arts Academy for the past two summers. This month, the portraits bring Idyllwild Library to life in an exciting explosion of color, to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month.

Images of Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Etta James and Miles Davis are there, along with accomplished musicians who teach at the academy or have performed at various venues here as local residents. The latter include 2011 American Idol finalist Casey Abrams and his mentor Marshall Hawkins, co-founder of the academy’s jazz program. You’ll also find Herb Jeffries, who was the last living member of the Duke Ellington Band before his death in 2014.

Chuck Alvarez and  Yve Evans  are highlighted, and Barnaby Finch, who toured the world with George Benson and Lee Ritenour, completes the display.

Barnaby Finch & his Marcia Gawecki banner
Barnaby Finch with his portrait by Marcia Gawecki, currently on display at Idyllwild Library. Photo courtesy: Idyllwild Library.
Marcia Gawecki & her Miles Davis banner
Marcia Gawecki with her portrait of Miles Davis. Photo courtesy: Idyllwild Library.

“What inspires me is the hard work of other artists,” Gawecki said in an interview this week. “People like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald had to overcome such great obstacles like poverty and racism and still they accomplished great things. I do a lot of research on the people that I paint. I once listened to an 18-hour book on tape on Louis Armstrong’s life.”

Gawecki said the musicians’ stories give her hope.

“An artist’s life is not easy because he always has to have a day job. I work as a cashier at Fairway (market) and I’m grateful for full-time work. It inspires me when young people come through my line (at the market) and say that they walk by my house every day and look at the banners that I put in the window. And they are artists too. In a small town you get a lot of support.”

She said The French Quarter’s bartenders tell her the locals really like the color of her banners.

Marcia banner
Marcia Gawecki’s portrait of Etta James is one of many that help get people dancing at Jazz in the Pines. Photo: Julie Pendray.

“It really gets them up and dancing!” she said.

Gawecki enjoys painting “big” but even banners have their limitations.

“I was thinking of doing the same work on large wooden panels about the same size,” she said. “I have a couple of doors without knobs lined up in my bedroom right now. But when you go big with wood you have to start thinking about transporting in a truck instead of a Honda civic.”

She plans to target large restaurants that have space to show off her creations.

As a result of her educational display at the Idyllwild library, Gawecki has been commissioned to do five banners of Idyllwild Actors Theatre performers.

“I’m excited about that!” she said.

Her story of coming to Idyllwild is interesting. She was born in Boston and grew up in Omaha Nebraska.

“I’m an Air Force brat,” she said. “Both my parents were in medicine and there were seven of us. So art was my way of getting attention in a large family.”

She came on a visit here after working in South America.

“I just got back from two years in Santiago, Chile where I was the editor of the English language newspaper and taught English,” she said. “I was broke and living with my mom in Temecula and was planning on moving back to Chicago where I had been before. But it takes a lot of money to move to Chicago so I was saving up for that. My mom and I took a day trip to Idyllwild because it was the closest mountain village to Temecula and I was missing the four seasons of Chicago. I fell in love with the place! There was so much overbuilding in Temecula and they were chopping down whole orchards to build new houses. Now I have 40 trees on my property! And I have wildlife at my door so it’s a perfect, quiet, spiritual place to be.

To learn more about Gawecki’s work, you can contact her at

Copyright Julie Pendray &

Ernie Maxwell Trail Views

Suicide Rock from Humber Park
View of Suicide Rock from Ernie Maxwell Trail. Photo: Julie Pendray.

By Julie Pendray

IDYLLWILD, Calif. — Spring is here and some of us “on the Hill” can’t wait to get in the sun and shed the extra pounds we accumulated during the snow. Ernie Maxwell Trail is a good choice for an easy-to-moderate walk here in the San Jacinto Mountain Range above Palm Springs. You can enjoy awe inspiring views of Suicide Rock — looking across Strawberry Valley — or look straight up to Tahquitz Rock.

Tahquitz Lily Rock
View of Tahquitz (Lily Rock) from Humber Park. Photo: Julie Pendray

Check out wildflowers and water in the streams, along with cooler temperatures, before summer hits.

Tahquitz is where the Yosemite Decimal System of climbing ratings originated in the 1950s, according to a variety of sources.  The system was developed by climbers in the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club . It classifies the difficulty of routes and is now used throughout the United States and around the world. People can ascend Tahquitz via Ernie Maxwell Trail, by connecting with Climber’s Trail. That path to the foot of Tahquitz is steep and sprinkled with loose shale. Not for the casual hiker.

Climbers' trail Ernie Maxwell Trail
Climbers Trail is a steep ascent to the base of Tahquitz. Photo: Julie Pendray

However, a 5.2-mile, round-trip hike of Ernie Maxwell Trail itself,  is a journey that can  be done in 2 hours, including time to take photos or stop for a snack. As the weather heats up, expect the walk to take a little longer, especially if you’re not used to the elevation. The trail starts at Humber Park at 6,420 feet. Hikers descend to 5,720 feet to the other end of this route, which intersects an unpaved road in a neighborhood. The lower level is not the best place to start Ernie Maxwell because there’s no assigned parking and the narrow, sloped road can be muddy for several days after rain.

Ernie Maxwell trailhead sign
Trail head at Humber Park. Photo: Julie Pendray

Instead, join the trail at Humber Park, where you’ll find parking and rest rooms. Access to the park is at the top of Fern Valley Road, and the trail head is in the lower part of the park. The National Forest Service requires an Adventure Pass, which you can get at the ranger station on Highway 243 at Pinecrest, in the center of Idyllwild. The pass costs $5 a day or $30 for a year and it grants you access to other recreation areas within San Bernardino Forest. You can get maps and other information there too.

Dogs are allowed on the trail, if they’re leashed. Your hike will enter into San Jacinto Wilderness, which means no bicyclists are permitted.

Here are a few images taken during a hike of Ernie Maxwell Trail this week. To view the gallery, click on the first image, then click on the right arrow to see other photos.

Ernie Maxwell Trail is named after the founder of Idyllwild Town Crier, the town’s newspaper. Maxwell and his wife, Betty, owned the paper from 1946 to 1972. Maxwell formerly wrote and/or illustrated for The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, Copley News Service and Esquire Magazine, according to a profile of him in the paper. He was a painter and sculptor who served on the Idyllwild Arts Foundation board and taught summer classes at Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts (ISOMATA), as it was called in the 1950s. The residential high school is now known as Idyllwild Arts Academy.

The annual Ernie Maxwell Community Spirit Award is given to people who have shown commitment to this unincorporated village through volunteerism or achievements. The Town Crier is accepting nominations for this year’s award until May 13. Previous awardees are: Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council in 2011; Dawn Sonnier in 2012; Robert Priefer in 2013; Annamarie Padula in 2014; and Wendy Read in 2015, according to the newspaper. Nominations can be mailed to: Idyllwild Town Crier, P. O. Box 157, Idyllwild, CA 92549, or drop it by the newspaper’s office at 54405 N. Circle Drive or email it to the editor: .

© Copyright Julie Pendray &

Idyllwild Art Auction to Help Trafficking Victims

Erin O'Neill's cougar photo
“…And dancing and leaping she goes,” by photographer Erin O’Neill.

By Julie Pendray

IDYLLWILD, Calif. — A sheriff’s investigator and a safe house representative  will speak at an art auction here April 14 designed to raise awareness and funding to help victims of sex trafficking. It’s another event in ongoing efforts by Soroptimist groups across the country to aid people caught in the globe’s fastest growing criminal industry.

Mimi Jacaruso scarf
Merino/silk scarf designed and laminated by Mimi Jacaruso.

Celebrating Women in the Arts, presented by Soroptimists International of Idyllwild, will feature a silent auction of work by as many as 20 local women.  The beauty of nature and the imagination will be juxtaposed against the backdrop of the evening’s topic: the dark under belly of a world that targets young people from all kinds of backgrounds and socio-economic groups.

Any child is vulnerable because of the grooming techniques used by traffickers, according to a member of Riverside County Anti Human Trafficking Task Force, Opal Singleton, who spoke to Idyllwild residents at a Soroptimist event last year. She is the author of “Seduced: The Grooming of America’s Teens.”

necklace for Soroptimist event
Karen Johnston has donated this necklace to the Soroptimist event.

Both of this week’s speakers serve on the multi-agency task force. Kristen Dolan from Operation SafeHouse will talk about the emergency shelter provided to victims at two locations in Riverside county: Riverside and Thousand Palms.

“Though Operation SafeHouse has two locations, our Anti-Human Trafficking department reaches across the entire county of Riverside,” she said in an interview by email this week. “We go to wherever the victim is and provide resources to them in their area.”

“Faded Splendor,” by Kathy Harmon-Luber.

Operation SafeHouse also holds community Protect and Prevent education events every month in Riverside, Thousand Palms and Murrieta.

scarf for Soroptimist event
Nuno felted scarf by Martha Lumia.



Net proceeds from Thursday’s event  in Idyllwild will help provide education opportunities for clients served by the organization, Dolan said.

Some of the money also will go toward a community education event in Idyllwild in September, according to the Soroptimist group.

“The View” is painted silk on canvas by Shanna Robb.

Artists Kathy Luber, Shanna Robb, Erin O’Neill, Mimi Jacaruso, Darcy Gerdes, Donna Elliot, Das Seastrand, Martha Lumia, Karen Johnston and others have donated their work for Thursday’s event.

Wine, cheese and other refreshments will be served in the first part of the evening. In the second part, sheriff’s investigator Brian Robertson will speak, along with Dolan.

“All Things,” a mixed media piece by Donna Elliot.


Celebrating Women in the Arts will be held  5:30 to 8 p.m. April 14 at Rainbow Inn, 54420 South Circle Drive, Idyllwild. The suggested donation is $20.

Soroptimist International of Idyllwild is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. For more information, go to their Facebook page or call club president Karen Doshier (951) 452-4599 or email


Fairy painting Darcy Gerdes
“The Mushroom Dance,” by Darcy Gerdes.
Ravens Flight
“Ravens Flight,” by Das Seastrand and Jerry Baccaire.

Copyright to Julie Pendray &




6 Months in A Motor Home: Zion National Park

Me with our motorhome in Maine
Come along as I unfold the story of my RV trip around the United States and Canada.

By Julie Pendray

Thanks for following this travelogue of my trip around the United States and Canada. See North America through the eyes of a young “Kiwi” New Zealander traveling with her American husband in 1989. These brief recollections are from my journals and the postcards I mailed to family. They aren’t meant to be a definitive chronicle or advice on how to do such a trip. Instead, they create a snapshot of life on the road, discovering this wonderful country and what it was like sharing a small space for so long and how the trip was life changing. I hope my story inspires you to research the destinations and go on your own adventure.

To pick up the thread, you can read my introduction about how we decided to set off on this adventure in our 30s, by clicking here. Then read about what we packed before leaving San Diego, by clicking here.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 9.13.10 AMApril 1989
Las Vegas

From my journal:

“As we drove northeast today we saw a double rainbow ahead of us over the highway. It looked like the letter M, an unusual sight. It seemed like a promise of a wonderful trip. We agree that we want to have fun, relax and not have expectations or pressures on this journey.”

Now on to …

Zion postcard
The postcard I sent to my family in New Zealand in 1989.

Zion National Park, Utah

“The air has been so dry since we left Las Vegas. The weather has been great. Utah has a lot of mineral mining — uranium, manganese, copper and more. I’ve also noticed steeples on top of churches everywhere in Utah. We’re doing a lot of day hikes here at Zion in the southwest corner of Utah. The red sandstone reminds me of the Aussie soil. It’s made from hardened sand dunes, exposed after millions of years by wind and water — Utah used to include ocean. At Zion, we hiked some of the Narrows to Hidden Meadows Trail. In some sections we waded in shallow water. We decided not to go further because we knew it would get wetter as we went upstream.

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The Narrows at Zion National Park.

“We met a nice middle-aged couple from Indiana and invited them back for a visit in our motor home. I baked scones in our tiny oven and it felt so homey. What a good way to start our trip. I’m looking forward to meeting lots of people like this and having them visit our cozy home on wheels.”

Zion back of postcard
Here’s what I wrote home from Zion National Park.

I wrote “home” to my family in New Zealand:  

“Last night, I baked prune scones for us and a couple we met on a hike. The guy has been to New Zealand to work at Greenlane Hospital with Sir Barratt-Boyes. He was a surgeon from Indiana and he’d heard of scones but never tasted them, so he got a kick out of it.”

To be continued. The next part will be about entering beautiful Colorado.


A little aside.
Here’s my mother’s scone recipe.

“Mum” was a farmer’s daughter of Scottish descent. Her recipe is a simple everyday variety. It’s a good place to start, then you can experiment and add grated vegetables or fruit if you like, and adjust the recipe accordingly. My favorite versions are date or apricot scones or vegetable ones that include carrots or zucchini. My mother’s mantra when folding in the milk and water was “Keep it light, so they rise.”

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Handle the scone mixture lightly so it rises well.

8 oz self-rising flour, a pinch of salt,
2 oz sugar, 1 1/2 oz butter, 3 oz milk and water,
dried fruit, grated vegetables or sharp cheese if you like. Otherwise, make them plain and serve them with raspberry preserves and possibly Devonshire cream, also known as clotted cream.

Sift the flour, add salt and sugar, add grated butter and rub it into the mixture. Make a well in the center of the mix and pour in the milk/water combination, a few splashes at a time. Don’t let the mixture get too wet or dry. Dust a cutting board with flour and gently place the dough on it, so it doesn’t stick. Mould it gently into a square that is about 1 1/2 inches high, then cut into small squares. Place them close together on a floured baking tray and bake at 450 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit or roughly 230 – 260 degrees Celsius for 10 – 12 minutes. Don’t let them go very brown on the top and they are not supposed to be crisp around the edge. They should be soft and only light brown. To test whether they are done, lightly press one on the top and if it bounces back, it’s ready!

When you remove them from the oven, take them from the baking tray with a cake slice and put them in a paper bag or “tea towel” to let them steam. It will keep them soft and moist until you’re ready for them. Eat them warm with butter and preserves or instead of butter add the cream (unless you’ve made the vegetable variety). Eat them the day you make them, or add an egg to the recipe to make them last longer. Mum’s scones were eaten quickly in our household so it didn’t matter either way!


© Copyright to Julie Pendray and



Bone Broth Aids Immunity

Bone broth Kiwani Lowansa Allen
Bone broth is loaded with health benefits. Photo: Kiwani Lowansa Allen.

By Kiwani Lowansa Allen

It’s still winter-ish, depending on where you live, and therefore still flu season. This season has been a doosie. When you are sick or when people are sick you need to make an extra effort to stay well. It turns out your grandmother was right, eating chicken soup made with homemade broth has amazing healing properties! Mineral rich bone broth is not only good for your immune system, it’s good for your gut, skin, hair, and has all the amino acids necessary (glutamate, cysteine and glycine) to create glutathione, one of the main antioxidants in the human body. An antioxidant is a chemical that resists the chain reaction of oxidation, which can be damaging to the cells in your body. Not only that but bone broth is also fairly high in protein: 167g (which is about 6oz) contains roughly 16g of protein. Pretty great right?

Here is how you make it:

1-2 lbs of bones*
1-1½ gallon of filtered water (depending on the size of your stock pot or slow cooker)
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt

*The best bones to start with are knuckle bones from grass-fed beef or buffalo or pasture raised chicken bones.

You can add vegetable and herbs like onions, garlic, thyme etc. But don’t add them in until just three to five hours before you are about to stop cooking your broth otherwise they will get bitter.

You can add garlic, onion, thyme and other ingredients to bone broth.

Put all your ingredients into your slow cooker or stock pot and cook on medium-low heat for 12-24 hrs. Some people say more time is necessary but 24 hrs seems to work great for me. The amount of time is why I use a slow cooker so I don’t accidentally burn my house down. That would kind of negate all the gut healing of the bone broth! When it’s all done, put it in the fridge and let it cool, then skim off the fat. I separate the broth into quart-sized containers and freeze all but the one I am currently using.

How do you use bone broth? You can drink it straight, use it in soup or stew, use it in roasts or braises or any old thing you might want a little bit of savory liquid for.

Bone broth is also high in gelatin. You’ll see that after cooking it for 10 or more hours it gets really “gloopy” after it’s cooled down. The gelatin in bone broth is from the marrow and from the ends of joints. So, what is gelatin good for?! More like, what is it not good for? It helps support healthy joints, skin, gut, hair, nails and more. Gelatin is made up largely of the amino acids glycine, proline and glutamic acid. With all that cooking comes a bunch of minerals released form the bones (the vinegar in the recipe helps break down the bones) like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. Getting them in liquid and all natural form makes them super easy to absorb unlike a lot of supplements that are from synthetic sources. If you are like me when you have the flu you might take an NSAID like Ibuprofen to help with the pain and inflammation. In general I try to avoid drugs but when you can’t sleep because of pain…. you do what you need to do. The good news is the glycine in gelatin is also really great for gut healing and inflammation.

As mentioned above, bone broth is also good for the skin. There is a distinct relationship between gut health and skin health. Glutamine has been shown in some human trials to support gut health by helping improve the function of tight junctions. This might account for reduced gut permeability. Tight junctions are specialized connections between cells. Gut permeability can be linked to several issues, one being skin issues. The WebMD definition of gut permeability is:
“A possible cause of leaky gut is increased intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability. That could happen when tight junctions in the gut, which control what passes through the lining of the small intestine, don’t work properly. That could let substances leak into the bloodstream”.

When unknown “things” get into the bloodstream they are called antigens and can cause an immune or inflammatory response. i.e. hives, acne, etc. All in all, bone broth is kind of magical. I hope this inspires you to make your own amazing bone broth.

Kiwani Allen


Kiwani Lowansa Allen was born and raised in Idyllwild. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Science from Bastyr University. She is also a Nationally Certified Massage Therapist (with more than 1000 hrs of training) and a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher.


The health section on is sponsored by Sky Island Organics, which has a natural food store, cafe and art gallery at 54423 Village Center Drive, Idyllwild.

Sky Island logo



Ortega Highway – A Sweet Day Trip

Ortega Oaks Candy Store

By Julie Pendray

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. –Many years ago, when I was still discovering California as a wet-behind-the-ears Kiwi, my husband surprised me with an impromptu drive to soak in a hot tub under the stars among trees somewhere off the beaten path off Ortega Highway. These heavenly hot springs are no longer available to the public, but there are still many reasons to take this wonderful drive over the mountains from Lake Elsinore in Riverside county to the beautiful coastline of San Juan Capistrano.

Ortega Highway is part of state Route 74, which goes from Palm Desert to the coast. On this leg of the journey, motorists pass through San Juan Hot Springs and Rancho Mission Viejo as well as Cleveland National Forest. The winding adventure is about 33 miles and will take you about 45  to 60 minutes. It is such a welcome respite from freeway traffic. However, before you set off, you should know that the Highway Patrol warns people that this is not the stretch of road to get cocky. As the song goes, “keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel”(or handle bars). In fact, ’70s music on satellite radio is the perfect accompaniment to this journey. Don’t be intimidated by this piece of highway, just hit the road, drive defensively and stay on your side of the center line when you round the corners. The view of the lake on the eastward stretch, from thousands of feet above the valley, is stunning and well worth the trip, especially at night when the lake appears midnight blue with a sparking town around it. The caveat is that this highway is considered more dangerous at night, so drive with care. Life is an adventure. Just be sensible.

Ortega Highway
Ortega Highway is a scenic route through Cleveland National Forest. Photo courtesy Shannon Rosenberg.

I’ve driven on the highway several times in recent years and I’ve wondered about the rustic little eatery called Ortega Oaks Candy Store but I’ve always been in a hurry so I’ve never stopped. Recently, on a westward drive, through my foggy windshield on a rainy day, I noticed a sign there announcing soup and sandwiches. Soup sounded like a good idea, since I had a cold, so I decided this would make a great spot to get out of the car and stretch my legs on the journey home.

I really love it when I’m not sure whether such an earthy little dining establishment will live up to its advertisement and then I find it’s better than I expected. Don’t let the humble exterior or its location fool you. There’s an amazing variety of offerings, and I was warmed not only by the simply presented homemade food but also the genuine friendliness of Shannon Rosenberg, the business owner. I chowed down a hot pastrami sandwich and the best chicken tortilla soup I think I’ve ever had. This place really hit the spot.

The candy store has expanded its offerings over time, Rosenberg said, because it’s the concession for the adjacent Ortega Oaks Campground. It’s even more than that. On the store’s web site, you’ll find news and events for the community, such as a call for Forest Service volunteers. Clearly, this spot is a hub for locals, some of whom wandered in and out while I was eating. Yet it was nice that I wasn’t treated like an outsider while I was eating on my own. I have found on my travels that if you are open enough to engage in warm conversation, an out-of-towner can be welcomed in, even with a foreign accent!

Nostalgic candy is traditional in this store, which opened in 1956 and was operated by a local ranch owner, Paul Anhalt. He also sold produce there, Rosenberg said.

Ortega Highway was completed in 1934 and is named after the Spanish soldier and explorer Sgt. José Francisco Ortega who founded Mission San Juan Capistrano. Ortega led the scouts of the 1769 Portola expedition to Monterey and later became commandante in San Diego. He founded the presidio of Santa Barbara, commanded the presidio at Monterey and was a scout of San Francisco Bay, according to the California State Military Museum. He is buried at Mission Santa Barbara.

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San Juan Loop Trail. Photo courtesy US Forest Service.

It might be nice to mention this history to your family as you drive over the highway or hike the forest trails, such as San Juan Loop Trail, an easy 2.1 mile walk, beginning across the highway from the candy store.  Yet, the candy itself is likely to be more engaging for young ones.

Rosenberg told me the selection of edibles changes from time to time. I was delighted to find huckleberry preserves, which are uncommonly seen in California stores. You might encounter chocolate chip bread pudding, espresso fudge, licorice Scotties or ginger roll. If you are on a special diet, you’re likely to find gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan options.

As if operating the store and creating the menu items and goodies isn’t enough to keep Rosenberg busy, she also makes cakes for all occasions and not just for the locals — some people drive up the highway to get them.

Ortega Oaks Candy Store is at Ortega Oaks RV Park & Campground, 34040 Ortega Hwy, Lake Elsinore.

© Copyright to Julie Pendray &

Sky Island Wows with First Art Show

The Dream by Rigo Rivas
“The Dream,” by Rigo Rivas. Image courtesy of Rigo Rivas.

By Julie Pendray

IDYLLWILD, Calif. — If ever there was a lesson in multiple vantage points or realities, it’s Rigo Rivas’s paintings. What appears to be a woman dreaming, with her arm thrown back over her long tresses becomes a man working with a pitchfork in a field of wheat. Just when you think you have the picture  of “The Dream” figured out, it becomes an entirely different scene before your eyes. Then as you walk away, a third reality appears on the canvas.

Where do his ideas come from?

Rivas is exhibiting at a new gallery space at Idyllwild’s recently renovated Sky Island Natural Food Store until June 1.

'DON'T BAATHER ME' Carol Landry sheep
“Don’t Baather Me,” by Carol Landry, who is exhibiting in Idyllwild until June 1. Image courtesy: Carol Landry.

Temecula artist Carol Landry’s representational paintings of animals, cacti and still life are also part of the show. Both painters belong to the Art Alliance of Idyllwild.

This week, Rivas, a Hemet resident, talked to me about his work.

“I find myself always motivated to bring out new ideas constantly circling in my head,” he told me. “Finishing a new piece excites me.”

Rigo Rivas Hemet artist
Rigo Rivas, Hemet artist, is exhibiting in Idyllwild until June 1. Photo courtesy, Rigo Rivas.

His pieces are reminiscent of Salvador Dali‘s surrealism and sometimes the brushstrokes of the Father of Expressionism, Vincent van Gogh.

“Van Gogh, Salvador Dali and Picasso have inspired me,” he confirmed. “Dali and Picasso especially share a cultural connection with me as their works depict the festivals, architecture and scenery I am quite familiar with since I was young in El Salvador. They motivated me to tell my own stories through my art of the strong Spanish culture in Central America.”

He said he generally tries not to classify his work by any one discipline.

“I would rather allow the viewer to create their own assessment and evaluate how the piece affects them. However, if I had to say, I think I scratch the boundaries of surrealism, romantics, and even cubism; a little bit of several principles, but never solely one.”

Rivas said he doesn’t have a set theme in mind when he starts a painting.

“Through composition I try to convey the emotion and feeling that is wrapped around the subject in my memories. One thing that is especially intended is when someone views the painting, they are led around the composition so they are able to examine the details throughout.”

Celebrating Creativity by Rigo Rivas
“Celebrating Creativity” by Rigo Rivas. Image courtesy of Rigo Rivas.

He said his passion for art started early in life when his brother was an artist and included him in his projects.

“My family is artistic, just not at a professional level,” Rivas said. “I do know that artistic ability ran through my mom to my brother and myself.”

He took his first art classes in high school in El Salvador. A few years later, he moved to Los Angeles and took community college courses in life drawing, illustration and design, as well as working as a sign painter. He moved his family to Hemet in 1989.

“Having come a long way from the place I grew up I feel compelled to make the memories of my early life live again and share it with people who would have otherwise never been aware of the sights and colors of small town life in El Salvador,” Rivas said.

A viewer can’t help but wonder about symbolism, given Dali’s influence.

Hatching Eggs
“Hatching Eggs” by Rigo Rivas. Image courtesy of Rigo Rivas.

Rivas said, “I am conscious of symbolism and metaphor in my pieces during creation. In ‘Hatching Eggs’ I wanted to depict a visual metaphor of growing out of adolescence into adulthood. However, the general image for the design came to me first before I saw fit to assign a theme to it. The symbols I use in my pieces such as birds, eggs, and hands may not be universally appreciated since they are my personal interpretations of subjects or themes.”

Rivas exhibits monthly  at the Latino Art Museum in Pomona.

Carol Landry & cow painting, Idyllwild show•
Carol Landry, a member of Art Alliance of Idyllwild. Photo courtesy of Carol Landry.

Landry just got two pieces juried into the Fallbrook Spring Art Show, which will be April 1-24. She built her career in San Diego as an airbrush painter for the aerospace industry, government, architects and celebrities. Landry is a multi-faceted artist, having worked in oils and acrylics, doing plein air pieces, abstracts and mixed media.

Queen of the Desert by Carol Landry
“Queen of the Desert” by Carol Landry. Image courtesy of Carol Landry.

The spring show at Sky Island Natural Foods is in the recently expanded Meadow Greens Cafe area.

Sky Island Organics also has acquired the former Gary’s Deli footage next door, which will become the manufacturing and processing kitchen for the company.

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Sky Island Natural Foods and its vegetarian Meadow Greens Cafe are at 54423 Village Center Drive in the Strawberry Creek Plaza, across from the Idyllwild Post Office.

©Copyright to Julie Pendray &

An online magazine for international readership, based in Idyllwild, California, one of the most popular small art towns in the United States.

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