Issue 17: Art

Inside the Fall 2021 edition of Alta Journal.

alta fall 2021 cover



nichols canyon creek, los angeles, creekfreaks
Christina Gandolfo

Soaked Through

The creek freaks of Los Angeles seek out the city’s secret water—and fight to set it free. By Denise Hamilton • Photos by Christina Gandolfo

urainium illustration
Mark Smith

The Uraniumaire

Written off by government geologists, blackballed by the oil and gas industry, and nearly broke, Charlie Steen had something to prove: that huge deposits of radioactive uranium could be found near Moab, Utah. The mines he drilled would change his life—and the surrounding area—forever. By Julian SmithIllustrations by Mark Smith

petroglyphs of paiute or shoshone origin near the owens valley in the eastern sierra, carved into volcanic tuff by chipping away the dark, top layer and exposing a light surface below
Gordon Wiltsie

The ‘Orderly Anarchy’ of Ancient California

Anthropologist Robert Bettinger’s startling discoveries suggest that California-style
hunting and gathering spread widely throughout the prehistoric West. By Robert Roper • Photos by Gordon Wiltsie

jill bernheimer, amy atwood, domain la
Christina Gandolfo

Uncharted Terroir

The L.A. women behind the West Coast rise of natural wine. By Sydney Love • Photos by Christina Gandolfo


judy chicago, through the flower 2, 1973, by judy chicago
© Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Collection of Diane Gelon; Photo BY Donald Woodman; Judy Chicago photo by Penni Gladstone

A Retrospective Long Overdue

The pioneering artist Judy Chicago is celebrated in the city that launched her career. By Bridget Quinn

Judy Chicago in Her Own Words

By Bridget Quinn

matt black
© MATT BLACK; Gregg Segal

In Search of an ‘American Geography’

The Central Valley’s Matt Black spent six years and traveled more than 100,000 miles—often by bus—photographing the ubiquity of poverty across the United States. By Jessica Zack

lemon grove historical society
Lemon Grove Historical Society

Alta Picks: Off the Wall

California’s world-class museums and galleries are an art lover’s dream. But don’t stop there. Surprising displays of creativity are everywhere. From desert plains to small-town alleys, here are six of our favorite places to experience art off the beaten path. By Jessica Blough, Nasim Ghasemiyeh, and Sarah Stodder

michael govan, the ceo and director of lacma, and stephanie barron
Gregg Segal

New Times, New Histories

LACMA reimagines itself for the 21st century, challenging accepted notions of what artworks should be displayed and for whom. By Hunter Drohojowska-Philp

william t wiley at his studio in woodacre, california, in 2010
Jeff Vendsel/Marin Independent Journal

Funk Art and the Pursuit of Authenticity

William T. Wiley and his creative philosophy were unapologetically linked to the Bay Area. By Charles Desmarais

dave hickey illustration

Not Everyone Should Be a Critic

Dave Hickey and the problem of great art going unappreciated. By Jim Lewis

hale woodruffs 1949 mural portrays black people in ways that segregated media ignore
PHOTO © Robin Dunitz



    homeschooling illustration, catherine womack
    James Ransome

    We’re All Homeschoolers Now

    How the pandemic revealed the value of lessons learned outside the classroom. By Catherine WomackIllustrations by James Ransome

    chris lowe, shark lab
    Tod Seelie

    A Shiver of Sharks

    Why have so many juvenile white sharks made the California coast their home? By Katharine GammonPhotos by Tod Seelie

    first opened in 1902, sherman indian high school, originally known as sherman institute, has housed several generations of indigenous students
    Sherman Indian Museum

    The Hard-Learned Lessons of History

    California’s last boarding school for Indigenous students moves toward embracing—not disgracing—tradition and culture. By Robert Ito

    rue mapp

    Trailblazer: Rue Mapp

    Reconnecting to the Outdoors. By Jessica Klein


    heritage barbecue’s offerings are based on central texas staples like brisket, ribs, chicken, and sausage with sides ranging from mac ’n’ cheese to cornbread prepared with southern california flair
    Andrea D’Agosto

    A Taste of Austin in Orange County

    Heritage Barbecue perfected Central Texas–style brisket, sausage, and ribs. But because this is California, it also serves pastrami, pork adobo, and Jidori chicken. By Gustavo Arellano • Photos by Andrea D’Agosto

    anna halprin

    A Grande Dame of Dance

    Anna Halprin left the New York scene in the 1940s to pioneer postmodern performance from a mountain deck in Northern California. Over the next 75 years, she created works with power to heal people and the environment, and to promote peace. By Carla Blank

    sleep nights
    Victor Juhasz

    Fiction: ‘Sleep Nights’

    By Blaise Zerega • Illustrations by Victor Juhasz


    contributors book guide

    Bound Together

    Books by Alta Journal Contributors

    maxine hong kingston
    Lacy Atkins/San Francisco Chronicle

    Why I Write: To Change the World

    By Maxine Hong Kingston

    Why You Should Read This: The Woman Warrior

    By David L. Ulin

    tommy orange
    Christopher D. Thompson

    Why I Write: Fire Season

    By Tommy Orange

    Why You Should Read This: There There

    By David L. Ulin

    hector tobar
    Dustin Snipes

    Why I Write: To Be Tall

    By Héctor Tobar

    Why You Should Read This: The Barbarian Nurseries

    By David L. Ulin

    larry mcmurtry
    Steve Carroll

    The Pastures of the Empty Page

    Larry McMurtry and the literature of place. By David L. UlinIllustration by Steve Carroll

    In Every Issue

    Publisher’s Note: The Poet As a Storyteller

    By Will Hearst

    • Contributors



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