BoxoFFICE presents an exhibition by Diane Best, Shack, which features image of cabins in the area around Joshua Tree, CA; some occupied, some abandoned, some close to being reclaimed by the earth.
The Mojave Desert was one of the last places in the lower 48 where land was granted free to anyone willing to improve the land. The cabins featured in the photographs were built as a result of one of the last homesteading acts passed, The Small Tract Act of 1938, that granted 5 acre parcels “for such purposes as home, cabin, health and recreational sites”. The Small Tract Act was also known as the “Jack Rabbit Act” as some people considered the desert land “fittin’ only for jack rabbits and tumbleweeds”.
The 5 acre plots were leased for 5 years for a nominal fee ($99. per year), and if a structure was built that was at least 12’ X 16”, the leaseholder could buy the property for $120. an acre. Water and power were not required. Many cabins were carefully built by weekend desert lovers, but many more were flimsily erected by land speculators and were never inhabited.
“Living in the desert, surrounded by these reminders of the past – many deserted with their contents intact, slowly blowing apart, decaying, and vandalized – I am fascinated by the question of their owner’s intent and untold stories of arrival, building and departure.” – Diane Best