Behind the Lens: This Retro Drive-In Isn't What It Seems

Photos and musings from photographer David Kidd.
by | December 21, 2018 AT 9:48 AM
(David Kidd)

They say art imitates life. In Bombay Beach, Calif., it's a little hard to identify what's art and what is rubbish.

The town is situated on the western side of the Salton Sea, the largest body of water in the state. In the 1950s and 60s, it was a popular getaway for Southern Californians. Half a million people came to Bombay Beach every year to swim, boat and fish.

But extensive flooding in the 1970s, followed by decades of rising salinity and pollution levels, turned would-be vacationers away. The ever-present stench of thousands of dead fish baking in the desert sun didn't help. The one-square-mile town was essentially abandoned.

In the past few years, though, artists have begun moving in. Several have bought lots and have adorned them with art installations and sculptures, many of which incorporate the vintage trash and rusty waste leftover from the town's heydey.

One installation, the “Bombay Beach Drive-In,” is especially hard to miss.

Rusted Ford Galaxies, an AMC Pacer, two Nash Metropolitans and other assorted hulks are arranged in rows pointing toward a white tractor-trailer truck that serves as the screen. The working theater is one of many art projects donated to the town by their creators.

In March, the fourth annual Bombay Beach Biennale will turn the bohemian community into a “fully-immersive art movement” for three days. LA Weekly has called the event "a radical art festival in a post-apocalyptic beach town."

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David Kidd | Design Director | dkidd@governing.com