The Uptown Design District in Palm Springs is aglow with artists, galleries and clever cafes reverberating mid-century motifs fueled by the popularization of Modernism Week. For those who have lost track of that jet-propelled era, you can rediscover it on North Palm Canyon Drive.
In the midst of this neighborhood is a growing number of Jewish artists.
Evelyn Kain and Gene Kain’s “The Dark & Light of It” exhibit opened on December 6 at Lon Michels Art on North Palm Canyon. The artists, married for 43 years, combined their works of art representing two distinct styles.
Combine Gene Kain with a master of fine arts degree with Evelyn Cain’s Ph.D. in art history, and expect something extraordinary. It was Mr. Kain’s symbolic sculptures of his experiences during the Holocaust that turned heads and hearts.
I knew at once there was a story behind Gene Kain’s sculptures and, sure enough, he spoke of his life’s journey in detail, beginning with a risky escape from the Crimea. Fortunate to reach America, he was stateless for several years. His survival was a miracle, and his sculptures tell the story.
Born in Moscow in 1937 to Jewish parents, his story in America began in 1949. He told me he was thankful to find a job picking cotton at a New Orleans plantation before moving on and choosing art as a career. After marrying Evelyn, an artist, art historian and Fulbright scholar in her own right, together they found the “Light of It.”
Their art began moving in new directions. That force is captured in the exhibit now on show.
Together the Kains create art in several forms, from a round bronze pizza to an elongated sculpture reminiscent of the trauma Mr. Cain endured during World War II. Evelyn’s expertise with fabrics, color and interiors offsets the dark side. Contrasting Gene’s story with Evelyn’s light hand is a wake up call for those who are accustomed to processing an exhibit with a predictable ending. The collaboration of the Kains’ combined history reflects a true meeting of the minds.
“We relocated to the Palm Springs from Ripon, Wisconsin, and already have been painting the San Jacinto Mountains every day, as the light changes.” Their current exhibit is open through January 2014.
A Coachella Valley coincidence, in the art sense, just steps away from the Cains’ exhibit, is Haya Modern Art Gallery, owned by Haya Gil-Lubin. Born in Haifa, Haya is a former El Al Airlines flight attendant and IDF soldier. She is still flying high with her alluring pillows. They radiate mid-century style and color with splashes of lime green and groovy orange. There’s more eye candy in her gallery with dangling wall hangings and photographic images imposed on rice paper.
And then there is a Jerry L. Hanson, another desert artist who created the stained glass windows for Temple Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles. Now based in the desert, Kain’s idiosyncratic creations defy description, such as a red chainmaille dress he recently modeled at the Archangel Gallery in the Uptown Design District. His solo show opens there on January 16, 2014.
When it comes to art, Palm Springs has a surprise around every corner.
Pamela Price serves on the Cathedral City Public Arts Commission.