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Kathi Hilton Kathi Hilton, 1939-2021

We were recently informed of Kathi Hilton-Garvin's passing on October 7, 2021. Her obituary begins poetically, saying "Kathi creates a luminosity all her own. That is the best way to describe not just her artwork, but Kathi Hilton Garvin herself."

Early in our gallery career, Linda and I became interested in California Desert painters and we began collecting California Desert paintings including paintings by John W. Hilton.

While researching, we soon encoutered Kathi. We contacted her and became fast friends. This lead to a series of Kathi Hilton exhibitions and personal visits with Kathi in Twentynine Palms and Palm Desert, California.

She has shared with us many colorful first-person stories of her father, his incredible circle of friends and stories of her own artistic journey.

Here is a link to her obituary.

Kathi Hilton, San Jacinto Nocturne
San Jacinto Nocturne 24 x 30
Kathi Hilton, Golden Promise
Golden Promise, 15 x 30

Flowering White Yuccas Miniature
2 x 3.5 inches, $250
Kathi Hilton's magnificent desert paintings convey the majesty and enchanted nature of California's deserts.

She is the daughter of famed desert artist,
John W. Hilton. Her father's close friends became Kathi's artistic uncles, including artists Maynard Dixon, Jimmy Swinnerton and Marjorie Reed (who frequently volunteered to serve as Kathi's baby sitter).

Growing up as John Hilton's daughter gave Kathi a front row seat to the life of her extraordinary father.
During the hot summers in Thermal, CA, Kathi would accompany her parents to the much cooler mountain town of Alamos in Northern Mexico where her John Hilton explored the plants, animals, and the culture of Sonora. John W. Hilton wrote about Kathi in his book, Sonora Sketchbook.
(Read More)
Kathi Hilton  at Twentynine Palms Opening
Kathi posing for photos
at the opening of her show
at the Twentynine Palms
Art Gallery in September, 2012

As an artist, she had several successful exhibitions, and has been featured Desert Magazine and Southwest Art Magazine, and was invited to participate in the Frank Tenney Johnson Memorial Show at the Gene Autry Hotel in Palm Springs.

Kathi uses a palette knife, and a technique crafted by her father of mixing fossil wax with oil paints to achieve a texture perspective, giving the finished painting realistic impressions of depth. Her paintings show an exceptional luminosity and often receive adoring comments from gallery visitors.

Behind the desk at the visitors center in Death Valley National Park hang a pair of large paintings by John and Kathi Hilton.
Kathi has given us two fantastic tales of her childhood days growing up in the home of John W. Hilton.

One of John Hilton's friends was aviator and industrialist, Howard Hughes. On several occasions, Hughes landed his airplane on the highway in front of John's humble gem shop and art studio in Thermal, CA. Once, he brought dinner with him, fresh Maine lobster for little Kathi's birthday. Today, lobster remain's Kathi's favorite dish.

Another of John's friends and painting partners was actor James Cagney. Cagney liked to get out of Hollywood and, visit John at his Twentynine Palms ranch and paint. It was Cagney who gave Kathi the best advice she ever received. She told the acting legend that people liked her paintings, but were always comparing them to those of her father. Cagney responded, "Don't you worry about that Katy, you just paint what's in your heart."

Sources: Conversations with Kathi Hilton, Sonora Sketchbook by John Hilton, 1947; Death Valley Visitor's Center, Furnace Creek, CA., Desert Magazine November 1979Back to top of page

Hilton Kathie Kathie Death Valley .jpg Hilton Kathie John W Death Valley .jpg
These are two large oil paintings by Kathi Hilton (left) and John W. Hilton (right), Death Valley National Park Visitor's Center
Kathi Hilton and John W Hilton sharing a photo at their first joint exhibition
Kathi and John W. Hilton
sharing their first joint exhibition
Kathi Hilton Desert Magazine 1978
Kathi featured in
Desert Magazine Nov, 1978