California's Coachella Valley has been transformed into a site-specific art exhibition. Called Desert X, the event features 12 international artists using the desert as their playground. This year includes a touching tribute as Tyre Nichols has been included in the lineup. The young Black father was passionate about photography before being brutally beaten by Memphis police officers in early January 2023. Three days later, he died from his injuries. Now, his work has returned to California—where he spent the better part of his life—in a moving display.
Nichols' photographs of Memphis landscapes and architecture adorn billboards along a Palm Springs highway. Photography was a creative outlet that helped him when he moved to Tennessee in 2020 and gave him a reason to go out and explore his surroundings.
“It expresses me in ways I cannot write down for people,” Nichols wrote of his photography. “My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens. People have a story to tell why not capture it instead of doing the ‘norm' and writing it down or speaking it.”
For the organizers of Desert X, the installation was a way to not only honor Nichols but all victims of institutional racism.
“Here the silent beauty of these levitated images stands in stark contrast with the terror experienced by Nichols and so many others on the shoulder below. But as with the vision the message is also one of hope: hope that with restrictions on pretextual stops California can lead the way in police reform; hope that together we can create a just society in which the fragile and beautiful talents of the likes of Tyre Nichols can flourish and grow.”
Nichols' installation is supported by the Palm Springs Public Art Commission and on view—along with the work of 11 other artists—through May 7, 2023. Desert X asks those looking to support Nichols to donate to the GoFundMe created by Nichols' mother.