Aside from a few small desert neighborhoods, abandoned buildings, and a line of telephone poles, there isn’t much human life East of Twentynine Palms.
For that reason, the approach to The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery is exceptionally special. Bikes half dug in the sand line the road, and beyond them the property is methodically sprinkled with funky finds – glass bottle-lined walkways, a Pepsi water tower, metal dragons and wire statue musicians, a wooden chapel, and of course, a functional glass outhouse.
I approached the main building- an indoor art gallery that is booked with art shows until 2024 – and found the owner, Laurel Seidl, standing outside. She immediately told me to me take a load off and began making us hot chocolate.
We spent the next four hours sitting in the sun, sipping chocolate, and talking about the life that led to the gallery – a wild 87 years overcoming every challenge imaginable and saying yes to all opportunities. Hearing one of her hitchhiking stories I reacted , “Wow, that must have been scary!”
Laurel calmly responded, “Oh, honey, I don’t scare.”
Her motto has always been “I can do this, I can do anything.” When the gallery in town refused to show her art, Laurel decided to create her own.
She built all of the buildings on her property, and what used to be a rabbit farm now houses art, a shared kitchen space for events, and a large building they are in the process of turning into more gallery space. Laurel’s place is 100% not for profit, and there is no hanging fee for artists. Friends from the community have recently convinced her to take donations until they raise enough for the new gallery, but regularly she would not accept monetary contributions.
I arrived on Thursday afternoon with the intention of leaving early the next morning, but after some time with Laurel I was convinced to stay longer and consider her offer to drive me through the Mojave. As a local, Laurel had seen and learned of a lot of weird things along that stretch of road, and she was concerned for my safety. I took her concern seriously, considering she does not scare.
Laurel and I hung out all day on Friday and most of Saturday as I considered the safest way to get across the desert. After lots of cold calling and last minute planning, I found my hiking buddy and water drop plans on Saturday, and set out for the hike early Sunday morning.
Although happy to be able to walk it and grateful to have a partner for the trek (more on that in the next post!) it was extremely difficult to say goodbye to Laurel and tell her I would not be taking the ride.
The Glass Outhouse is so much more than an art gallery. In the 2.5 days I spent there, I met friends, family, and community members who stopped in to see Laurel, and strangers who came to walk her land. Laurel, her partner Frank, and groundskeeper Ron create an open-minded, warm-hearted, peaceful space – welcoming all visitors as family.
At my departure Laurel gave me a stack of post cards, already stamped and addressed to The Outhouse so I can check in along the way. It was the most beautiful two days, and I’m missing her already.