How artist Gerald Clarke’s new mural at Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage depicts Cahuilla heritage

View Original Notice ? How artist Gerald Clarke’s new mural at Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage depicts Cahuilla heritage

Artist Gerald Clarke wants to create art with anything he can get his hands on.

“I’ve painted, sculpted beer cans and gum ball machines, carved stone and cast bronze,” he said.

Clarke’s latest art piece allowed him to get his hands on something bigger — a wall at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage.

His latest work is a heritage-focused mural titled “Cahuilla Realms” and is located inside the casino across from Waters Café near the elevators and measures about 7 feet wide and 12 feet tall.

Clarke is an artist, an enrolled member of the Cahuilla Band of Indians and a professor of Ethnic Studies at UC Riverside. As a child, he developed his skills at an elementary school that valued the arts and allowed him to pursue his interests. After high school, he decided to go to welding school and later enrolled in college, where he majored in art. The art he studied in college often focused on the individual artist, contrasting his upbringing in a native culture that celebrates community and kinship.

“You’re raised to see yourself as something larger than yourself,” Clarke said. “That’s something that’s always on my mind when I make something. It’s not just about me or expressing myself.”

  • Artist Gerald Clarke’s heritage focused mural titled, “Cahuilla Realms” is now on display on the art wall at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. (Courtesy of Agua Caliente Casinos)

  • Artist Gerald Clarke is pictured here next to his heritage focused mural titled, “Cahuilla Realms” The mural is now on display on the art wall at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. (Courtesy of Agua Caliente Casinos)

  • Chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Reid D. Milanovich, artist Gerald Clarke, and Tribal Council member of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians John R. Preckwinkle III, are pictured here in front of Clarke’s heritage focused mural titled, “Cahuilla Realms.” The mural is now on display on the art wall at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. (Courtesy of Agua Caliente Casinos)

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The native perspective he was raised with now inspires his work, including the mural he painted for the casino. The piece has a vertical design with a sun kissed orangish background and mountains in hazy distance. It also features four wooden rattles in the form of a circle that serves as the mural’s sun. The rattles are a reference to the instrument used in Cahuilla bird singing. Underneath the rattles is a small blue humming bird that is known for its power in Cahuilla culture. At the bottom of the painting sits a yucca plant which is a staple of food and other materials for the tribe.

“There is a historical element to it and our connection to the land and the natural environment,” Clarke said. “All of those things are part of our community.”

The sense of community evoked by Clarke’s work can also take on different forms of participation. He said that previous displays have become backdrops for people who want to photograph themselves with his work

“I’ve had shows where people use my work as selfie central,” Clarke said. “They like to take pictures of themselves in front of it. I like that, and I think it’s cool that people can interact with my work.”

With his new mural displayed, Clarke said he hopes the themes remind spectators of the role native people in America have played and continue to play.

“Native people are still here, and we’re living and carrying on our traditional culture but are also a part of the modern fabric of American life,” Clarke said. “We’re not just surviving. We are thriving.”