Singer Beth Orton Spray Paints Protected Joshua Tree In New Music Video
The desert around Joshua Tree National Park is known for many things. Its dark skies, ancient trees, stunning geography and unparalleled vistas draw nearly 1.6 million visitors to the national park annually. Among these millions of visitors, unfortunately, include a few who see no problem with spray painting the natural landscape, often in some misguided artistic endeavor.
One of these people is the English singer Beth Orton, who posted and then un-posted a music video that that depicts the artist spray painting a federally-protected Joshua tree. As Billboard reports, filming Orton's music video for her recently-released song "1973" involved spray painting both a Joshua tree and a cholla cactus, neither of which were cleaned after the video's production crew packed up shop.
The video was directed by a photographer named Tierney Gearon. Orton selected Gearon to do photography for the singer's new album after being drawn to Gearon's rainbow'd aesthetic, reports the Independent. Unfortunately, this aesthetic was transmitted onto a tree that's possibly more than 1,000 years old.
After a Change.org petition called out Orton for vandalism, and asked that she make a donation to the Mojave Desert Land Trust as reparation, Ortin issued the following apology statement on Facebook:
I am so sorry. I feel sick with disgust. I was told the tree was already dead. I will take the video down now. Please let me know what I can do to help make some kind of amends. I did not direct the video and was following direction but now I know what I have been part of I feel utterly devastated and of course take responsibility for my part. I am truly and deeply sorry.
Dead or alive, tagging protected lands in the desert is vandalism, plain and simple. Four men were recently ordered to appear in court for spray painting a dam in Joshua Tree National Park on April 15, according to the Desert Sun. And who can forget the egomaniac French-street artist André Saraiva who thought it was appropriate to spray paint (bad) cartoons across rocks in the park as well.
We've reached out to Gearon for a statement, though have not heard back.
Update [5:15 p.m.]: A local radio station reports that the property on which the video was shot and the plants were damaged are owned by the Noah Purifoy Foundation. A spokesperson for the foundation tells Z107.7 News that Orton and her crew never asked for or received permission to shoot at the site, and the foundation "never would have allowed such a thing."
Noah Purifoy was an artist who lived in Joshua Tree and co-founded the Watts Towers Arts Center (the Watts Towers themselves were built by Simon Rodia). He's known for creating works out of found materials, including a series of sculptures built out of wreckage found after the Watts Riots. In the last part of his life he assembled the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Museum of Assemblage Sculpture. It is unclear whether the vandalized tree is on the property of the museum.