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The Iron Art of Simi Dabah

On my recent trip to the desert, I was lucky enough to stumble upon an “art drive” in the Joshua Tree/Twentynine Palms area. Local artists opened up their studios and with the map provided, you could drive to their homes and purchase their wares. And this would have been a wonderful way to spend the afternoon if the first place we went to hadn’t been metal artist Simi Dabah. One look at his 8 acres of rusted metal sculptures and I knew I really didn’t care if I saw one other thing that day.

As we pulled into the parking lot I practically leapt out of the car with my camera, fully expecting to be told that I wouldn’t be allowed to take any photos. But just the opposite happened.

I was greeted by very friendly people who actually didn’t know that much about the art but were very excited to tell me about their organization that helped the elderly in the Morongo Basin get to and from their doctor’s appointments. All the proceeds from the sculpture sales were benefiting them. I was intrigued.

It turned out that the infamous Simi Dabah (he was no where to be found) apparently ONLY donates his work to charities. He either gives a piece to the non-profit (say the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles) or, as in this case, he allows the charity to sell his work and keep 100% of the profit. How amazing.

The pieces ranged from 12″ to 20′ and you can imagine how much 20′ of steel weighs. You had to figure delivery out on your own, but these pieces were so unique and beautiful that they would be worth it. And they weren’t really that expensive considering how amazing they were.

Mr. Dabah apparently took one welding class over 30 years ago and was hooked but still, some how, doesn’t consider himself a professional artist. I guess if you give all your art away then technically you aren’t.

From the photos of him on his website he looks to be in his late 70s or early 80s but he still welds every day in his Los Angeles studio creating new works all the time.

A lot of the pieces he creates from old die casts or scrap pieces.

I think I may be a bit smitten with Mr. Dabah because he reminds me a little of my grandfather who was also a metal worker…though of the more menial labor variety. But he did work on the Golden Gate Bridge.

As I was looking for more information about Simi Dabah for this piece, I found a facebook posting from the Boys and Girls Club from just last week where they were selling his work as a benefit for their organization…so if you’re interested in purchasing anything you might try doing searches like that.

And now you might start noticing some of his work in public spaces through Southern California…especially the Morongo Basin in places like Copper Mountain College.

And if you happen to find yourself in Joshua Tree on Sunfair Avenue, you can probably leer through the chain link and gaze upon all the rusted beauty yourself.

This was the one I almost bought…just couldn’t spend the money that day. But I know I’m going to regret it.

And this was a very affordable cute little guy.

And this is my last shot as I sobbed off into the sunset hoping that some day I would get to meet the mysterious Simi Dabah. I’m sorry, Mr. Dabah, you’re a professional in my book.

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5 Responses to “The Iron Art of Simi Dabah”

  1. Wow, I could be very happy with any one of those amazing works.

  2. Paul Metzler says:

    We have met Simi Dabah and have two of his pieces. His public art is also on display at Cal State San Bernardino, Palm Desert Campus, among other places.

  3. Patrick says:

    Wow! Phenomenal stuff and great photos. Time for a road trip.

  4. Denise says:

    What a role model for my 70s and 80s. I should take that one welding class pronto…

  5. Reach Out Morongo Basin was the organization you spoke of when you came to view the art at Simi’s sculpture garden. Simi Dabah is a truly gifted and very generous artist who supports so many organizations through his philanthropy. With the upcoming 2013 Hwy 62 Art Tours Reach Out will again be hosting at Simi Dabah’s on October 26 & 27, 2013 as a fundraising event. With new works coming out all the time there will be much to capture the imagination!

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