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Check out this quirky sculpture garden off Highway 395 | A Bartell's Backroads Pit Stop

The main attraction in the desert town of Olancha is an open-air interpretive metal art display.

OLANCHA, Calif. — If you’ve ever driven from LA to Mammoth Lakes on Highway 395, then you’ve probably seen them. The colorful metal sculptures are known as the Olancha Sculpture Garden, and they are Jael Hoffman's gift to Eastern Sierra commuters.

“The first one I put in the garden is the tallest at 15-feet tall,” Hoffman says. “It’s quite psychological. Everything you see is not at all what it means; it is all symbolic.”

The tiny desert town of Olancha doesn’t have a lot going for it, but the growing collection of sculptures has been attracting and inspiring curious travelers since 2010.

“One guy made a tattoo of my sculptures,” Hoffman laughs.

There’s no cost to enter the sculpture garden. In fact, you may just walk away with a gift.

“My child and I make gifts and put it in this take bin and people exchange art with us anonymously.” 

Credit: ABC10 / KXTV
Jael Hoffman check the "take bin" where she exchanges small pieces of art with anonymous passers-by.

Self-taught; Hoffman cuts, welds and grinds all her art from recycled material she sources from a lot of places.

“Friends, you know, who live in abandoned mining towns,” she says.

Born in Israel, Jael has bounced around the world. Berlin, then LA, and eventually Olancha, where she and her ex-husband purchased a 10-acre plot of land and started living off the grid. It’s a simple and sometimes lonely life in the desert, but Hoffman’s 550-sq ft. home affords her more time to focus on her art and her art brings in regular visitors, who she very much enjoys meeting.

“The greatest thing I do living this way is that every day is unpredictable,” says Hoffman.

The Olancha Sculpture garden is open every day. Please respect Hoffman’s privacy and don’t drive up to her house. If you want to see more of her art, check out her website

HIT THE BACKROADS:  Summer is here! Plan your ultimate road trip with John Bartell's list of California's top 10 destinations to visit.

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