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Kim Stringfellow: Greetings from the Salton Sea


Summary Note

The archive Kim Stringfellow: Greetings from the Salton Sea contains maps, real estate films, media releases and coverage, book dummies, research materials, correspondence, work prints, press, and exhibition documentation related to research for her book, Greetings from the Salton Sea: Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905-2005.

Biographical Note

Stringfellow is an artist and educator residing in Joshua Tree, California. She teaches multimedia and photography courses at San Diego State University as an associate professor in the School of Art, Design, and Art History. She received her MFA in Art and Technology from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2000. Her work and research interests address ecological, historical, and activist issues related to land use and the built environment through hybrid documentary forms incorporating writing, digital media, photography, audio, video, installation, mapping, and locative media.

Scope and Content

Greetings from the Salton Sea is a book, physical installation, and Website project documenting the cultural and environmental history of the multi-challenged Salton Sea-California's largest inland body of water located in Southern California near the Mexican border. The project discusses the societal, environmental, and historical background of this unique place through photography, text, archival real estate promotion films, and collected objects.

The book, Greetings from the Salton Sea: Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905-2005 was published by the Center for American Places in 2005. The publication was funded with a substantial production grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

In 1905 and 1906, the Salton Sea formed during a misguided engineering accident when Colorado River levees broke below the California-Mexico border. Great floodwaters filled the depression previously known as the Salton Sink-which, at its peak level of 195 feet below sea level, covered upwards of 400 square miles-creating an immediate sanctuary for birds and opportunities for future development.

During the past 100 years, numerous resorts schemes arose along the shores of the Salton Sea. Frank Sinatra, Desi Arnaz, President Eisenhower, Jerry Lewis, the Beach Boys, and the Marx Brothers all frequented the area, and during the 1960s tourists visited the Salton Sea in numbers that at times exceeded tourism in Yosemite. By the 1980s, however, the Salton Sea's biologically overburdened system resulted in the near abandonment of the area's resort and communities, and massive fish and bird die-offs reflected escalating environmental harm, especially from agricultural runoff in the Imperial Valley.

The future of the Salton Sea is uncertain. It remains a major habitat and stopover to more than 400 bird species as part of the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge; but poor water quality and impending water transfers to ever-expanding Southern California communities complicate the environmental picture.

Artists have been particularly fascinated with the Salton Sea as it saw greatly increased human activity post-World War Two. A proposed but failed real estate development left a series of contemporary ruins stranded on its shores, which photographers such as Joan Myers and Stringfellow have documented. Stringfellow's art practice, which lies at the juncture of geography and art, is well suited to investigate the historical and social trends that converged at the desert lake to create a unique built environment.


Kim Stringfellow: Greetings from the Salton Sea is organized into 2 series based upon subject.
  • Series 1: Project Research
  • Series 2: Project Outcomes

Inclusive Dates


Bulk Dates


Quantity / Extent

.5 cubic feet


English, Polish, and Spanish

Related Archive Collections

Related Publications

DeBuys, William Eno. Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-down California. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999.

Fox, William L. Playa Works: The Myth of the Empty. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2002.

Landis, Christopher. In Search of Eldorado: the Salton Sea. Palm Springs, CA: Palm Springs Desert Museum, 2000.

Stringfellow, Kim. Greetings from the Salton Sea: Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905 - 2005. Chicago: The Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago, 2011.

Stringfellow, Kim. The Mojave Project Reader. Vol. 1-4. Joshua Tree, CA: Kim Stringfellow Projects, 2021-2022.

Container Listing by Series:

CAE1205/1 Series 1: Project Research, 1966-2012

Series 1 contains artist Kim Stringfellow’s research materials for the Salton Sea project.
  • CAE Box 32

    • 1-1 Artist Information, 2006-2012
    • 1-2 Salton Sea Historic Artifacts, 1966 - 1993
    • 1-3 Research: California Park Service, 1995
    • 1-4 Research: Ecology, 1998-2000
    • 1-5 Research: Magazine Articles, 1996-2005
    • 1-6 Research: New River, 2003-2004
    • 1-7 Research: Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, 1998-2006
    • 1-8 Research: Salton Sea Authority, 1998-2004
    • 1-9 Research: U.S. Army (1 of 2), 1996
    • 1-10 Research: U.S. Army (2 of 2), 1996
    • 1-11 Research: U.S. Navy, 1995
    • 1-12 Research: Milton Friend, Salton Sea Science Office, 1999-2011
    • 1-13 Research: Donald Scheidler, 2000

Additional Materials

  • CAE Flat File F30 Oversized Items

    • 1-2#1 Salton Sea Communities Street Maps, folding map, 1993
    • 1-11#1b EBA Update: Figure ES-1, technical drawings, 1995
    • 1-11#1c EBA Update: Figure 5-1, technical drawings, 1995
    • 1-11#1d EBA Update: Figure 5-2, technical drawings, 1995
    • 1-11#1e EBA Update: Figure 7-1, technical drawings, 1995

CAE1205/2 Series 2: Project Outcomes, 2002-2012

Series 2 contains the book, press, and exhibition materials for the Salton Sea project.
  • CAE Box 32

    • 2-1 Book Reproduction Releases, 2004
    • 2-2 Book BLAD and Dummy, not dated
    • 2-3 Book Proof, 2005
    • 2-4 Kim Stringfellow: Greetings from the Salton Sea Exhibition Materials, 2003-2006
    • 2-5 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 2002-2012
    • 2-6 Exhibition/Book Reviews and Press, 2004-2011

Additional Materials

  • CAE S-Box 60

    • 2-5#1 John Michael Kohler Arts Center, newsletter, 2006