Portrait of Judy Chicago standing in orange and blue smoke

Judy Chicago

living smoke

A tribute to the 50th anniversary of
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Legendary artist, Judy Chicago, will present her newest Smoke Sculpture, Living Smoke: A Tribute to The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, at Desert X 21 on April 9, 2021 from 4 to 7 PM with limited, reserved viewing. This year’s exhibition will explore the desert as both a place and idea, acknowledging the realities of people who reside there and the political, social, and cultural contexts that shape their stories. Chicago’s brilliantly colored piece will be one of the featured newly commissioned works that collectively pose urgent questions about our pasts while imagining the possibilities of a shared future.

Chicago’s Living Smoke will transform a 1,200-acre desert landscape in the Coachella Valley with colored smoke. Chicago has reteamed with long-time collaborator Chris Souza of Pyro Spectaculars in creating this monumental work.

This event is being sponsored by The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation in memory of Arlene Schnitzer (1929 – 2020).

Living Smoke acknowledges the Cahuilla People as the original stewards of the land on which Living Smoke now sits. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work with the indigenous people in this place. We pay our respect to the Cahuilla People past, present, and emerging who have been here since time immemorial.

Streaming live on this site
Living Smoke Begins in


judy chicago

Judy Chicago is an artist, author, feminist, educator, and intellectual whose career now spans five decades. Her influence both within and beyond the art community is attested by her inclusion in hundreds of publications throughout the world. Her art has been frequently exhibited in the United States as well as in Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. In addition, a number of the books she has authored have been published in foreign editions, bringing her art and philosophy to readers worldwide. In the early seventies after a decade of professional art practice, Chicago pioneered Feminist art and art education through a unique program for women at California State University, Fresno, a pedagogical approach that she has continued to develop over the years.

Chicago’s work with colored smoke and pyrotechnics dates back to the 1960s when she began her Atmospheres series. “When Judy Chicago began her Atmospheres, she was interrogating the land art movement, a movement not only dominated by male artists, but for which monumental earth works were the norm,” says Candice Hopkins, the senior curator for the Toronto Biennial of Art, which has also commissioned a smoke piece from Chicago to close its exhibition in 2022. In contrast to her male contemporaries, Chicago brought a uniquely feminine expression to the typically destructive nature of Land Art at the time, blanketing the landscape with clouds of color to highlight humankind’s relationship to, rather than dominion over, the land. Chicago’s contribution to the Land Art movement, which has only recently been acknowledged, asks audiences to really “LOOK” at the environment and through the medium of color, understand its beauty and fragility and the importance of becoming better stewards of the natural world.

Chicago’s recent “Smoke Sculptures” pick up where her Atmospheres left off in 1974. Like these earlier works, her site-specific piece designed for Desert X will leave no trace. She will be working with environmentally friendly smoke in the unique ecosystem that is a part of The Living Desert.  Like all of Palm Springs, the site is the homeland of the Cahuilla people.

Hopkins states: “Their name for Palm Springs is Se-he, or boiling water, both a reference to the springs and the filifera palm tree. Their origin story of this place centers on a young girl who tried to save a baby from drowning in the spring, losing her own life in the process. Perhaps Chicago’s most recent Atmosphere will be a means to call attention to the central place of women in this land, and the need to recognize the Cahuilla people not only as its true custodians but the most important voices in what takes place here.”

Judy Chicago’s Website
Through the Flower Foundation


smoke sculptures by judy chicago





Press Packet
Desert X Press Release
Philipp Kaiser Essay

Judy Chicago: New Views written by Philipp Kaiser, originally published in Monograph



Desert X logo in white
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens logo in white
Palm Springs Life logo in white
Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation logo in white
Nevada Museum of Art logo