March 12, 2005, Shari Elf drove me out to Noah Purifoy’s outdoor museum of folk art from found objects, just outside the bohemian high desert community of Joshua Tree, 125 miles east of Los Angeles. Shari’s a master of this form; I’m a dreamer of it, infatuated with the works of Antoni Gaudi, Simon Rodia, and Niki de Saint Phalle, and, of course, Shari Elf, and just about every other folk art environment I’ve ever visited. Someday, I tell myself, I’ll make one, maybe when I’m as venerable as Grandma Prisbrey.
Purifoy enjoyed a considerable reputation as a sculptor, and was the founder of the Watts Towers Art Center, preserving Simon Rodia’s folk art treasure after the artist simply walked away one day forever, and the city of Los Angeles tried desperately to tear it down. It was simply too well built.