Desert Mystic: The Paintings of John Simpkins | Art Watch | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Coverage for Central Oregon, by Central Oregonians.
100% Local. No Paywalls.

Every day, the Source publishes a mix of locally reported stories on our website, keeping you up to date on developments in news, food, music and the arts. We’re committed to covering this city where we live, this city that we love, and we hear regularly from readers who appreciate our ability to put breaking news in context.

The Source has been a free publication for its 22 years. It has been free as a print version and continued that way when we began to publish online, on social media and through our newsletters.

But, as most of our readers know, times are different for local journalism. Tech giants are hoovering up small businesses and small-business advertising—which has been the staple for locally owned media. Without these resources, journalism struggles to bring coverage of community news, arts and entertainment that social media cannot deliver.

Please consider becoming a supporter of locally owned journalism through our Source Insider program. Learn more about our program’s benefits by clicking through today.

Support Us Here

Culture » Art Watch

Desert Mystic: The Paintings of John Simpkins


  • Submitted

Some artists apply their craft to make a living. Some pay attention to their creative spirit on Sundays, in the spare room, with the good light. And then there are some artists who seemingly walk through the world with creativity and life dripping from their very essence, applying beauty to every moment of their existence. John Simpkins is one of those artists. To be around the man and his work feels like being captured in a life of art itself. I know this from following him on Facebook (more on that later).

This month, The High Desert Museum will exhibit Simpkins' new work. For the last seven years he's been living in the Old Andrews Schoolhouse in the Alvord Desert, painting large canvases featuring the landscape and its inhabitants, alone except for the companionship of his standard poodle, Ella.

Simpkins' work is often magical—filled with images of animals dressed as monks and often surrounded by coded messages, perhaps himself in one corner, or the small image of the United States marking the back of a coyote. These small, fine details are mesmerizing, the layers of paint and color and meaning in the very large canvases filled with story and myth.

Simpkins uses Facebook to reach out to the world on a daily basis, often showing work in progress, or sharing a daily photograph from his morning walk with Ella, or smaller paintings he's creating on the tops of cigar boxes—which often comment on current politics. Simpkins' beautiful meditations on life and the way he shares his slow days are inspiring, offering perspective and breadth and the reminder that there's magic living in the world, right here in Oregon.

John Simpkins
Sat. Oct. 27-Tues. Feb 19
High Desert Museum
59800 Hwy. 97, Bend

About The Author

Teafly Peterson

For the last 20 years, I have been working as an artist and an educator. Some days I am better at one than the other. The good days are when I am excellent at both simultaneously. I love those days. I teach a variety of mediums– painting, drawing, photography, writing, film making. Mostly what I teach is how to...

Speaking of...

Add a comment

More by Teafly Peterson