25 September 2018

Ocotillix Rosario

In the Sonoran Desert, some areas get more rain than others. Around Tucson the yearly rainfall is 12" but in the El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar it's closer to 3" if any at all.  Rain is usually randomly sourced by a Pacific hurricane or tropical storm coming inland to die. So hardy adaptive plants like the ocotillo growing in an area with less rain may look young but actually be very old.

How old? Sometimes more than 100 years old. Here's some interesting photos. Notice the cactus growth on the left and the relatively unchanged ocotillo on the right after 86 years.


From Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill

In between rains, ocotillo dials its' metabolism down to a crawl and appears to be a bundle of dead, spiny sticks. When rains occurs it springs into action by sprouting leaves and bright red torch-like blooms. Pollinators like carpenter bees and hummingbirds are attracted to the blooms.

This one was found in the Gran Desierto de Altar at the foot of the Sierra del Rosario mountains. I was taken by the height of the ocotillos in this area compared to most of the shorter, ground-hugging plants and the sound of wind through their spiny branches.


28 May 2017

AA Pinacate

The ancient feeling of the Pinacate Bioreserve surrounds you with its volcanic landscape of black cinder. Yet in all of the ancientness, the ʻAʻā (Hawaiian term) or rocky cooled lava looks as though it just happened yesterday. The lava flows are young, as in 40,000 years ago. Once molten and unapproachable, they are still a forbidding place to go. Massive piles of car sized ʻAʻā boulders, steep pits and a surface that is extremely sharp to the touch. Climbing among the lava flows must be done carefully because a misstep would mean certain injury. The going is so tough I've wondered if you tossed something into the center of the flow if it would ever be found again.

This piece was about getting into the detail of the rock and being true to it's nature. When you get into the details, it's more like working on an abstract piece. Natures abstraction pulls you into the details.


23 January 2017

Tarantulix

Encountering a tarantula (this one is a Mexican Red-Kneed) always halts a hike for a dozen minutes or so. They seem so out of place but then you see how much sense their body design makes in the desert. I usually catch them crossing a clear area with comfortable purpose.

The eyes are tiny and not immediately apparent so it looks almost as if the furry automaton is feeling it's way through the landscape blindly or by some invisible force.

This is in fact the case. They sense the world around them more  through vibration and smelling pheromones than sight.

Right now it's safe to talk about Spider Grandmother under the webbed sky laced with stars because it's "the season when Thunder sleeps."

13 November 2016

Crucible Workshop @ The Getty

Here's something that will get me to travel to Los Angeles: two days of being at the Getty Museum, studying medieval manuscripts, hanging with personal hero artist / alchemist Timothy Ely, bedding up at the Sportsman's Lodge, Ubering everywhere, and California style eggs benedict every morning.

The workshop centered on paper mark making, use of occult symbols and how to embed hidden meaning into an art piece, taught by Tim. A great mix of people into the magical arts, paper, history and bookmaking were in attendance. We also had an exclusive look at Tim's books that the research facility has in their collection. This was all in conjunction with "The Art of Alchemy" show running during the same time.

One word sums it up for me: inspired.

All pics on flickr






27 September 2016

Mohavix

The Mohave Rattlesnake is the most venomous and hottest to strike of snakes in the Sonoran Desert. That being said, her symbiotic relationship with rodents is immeasurably important to the ecosystem. She's just doing her job very well.

With this piece I was thinking about margins and targets. Margins of the senses, margins of territory, margins of safety. Margins are breached by predator and prey. Territories filled with targets of seed bearing plants and rodent trails. Safety is staying outside the margins and sometimes below the ground's surface.  I imagine these invisible zones growing and shrinking from minute to minute as creatures hunt and hide. Plants set up slower seasonal margins of fruiting and flowering, as well as being a home to birds, lizards, insects and rodents. If you can see these invisible margins, you realize the dynamic interconnectedness of the desert biome.


08 August 2016

Book Magic

A visit with Richard Spelker.


I've always had an interest in mysterious books.  One of my great artist heroes is a book artist. When one of his compadres moved near me, the thoughts started falling into place rapidly. I'm going to make a book of my print originals. By some synchronicity or psychic signal, he invited me out to see his collection and studio.

Richard is artist, alchemist-chemist, archivist-collector, book maker, historian and world traveler. With a range of interests from psychedelia, early science and the occult, there is never a dull moment in conversation with him.

I wasn't in the door more than 30 seconds when I was ushered over to a table holding 3 Timothy Ely handmade books. I can't describe my awe in being able to handle the real thing.

Timothy Ely

Timothy Ely

Timothy Ely

Here's some shots of Richard and his super rare 18th and 19th century books. I was knocked out!

Richard Spelker



One of Richard's expertise lies in his interest in inks and the old formulas used to make them. Teaching and consulting on the subject to amateurs and museum book conservators alike, he's collected more than a thousand recipes for making ink. Some pigments are derived from plants and animals. Below, Richard holds a bottle of red ink made of cochineal beetles from South America in his laboratory / print shop / artist studio.

Richard Spelker




18 July 2016

Lepus Allenix

Meeting an antelope hare is like meeting a humble ambassador of the desert. A tall, slender running machine with long, alert ears always scanning. Their unusually large size has startled me more than once as I think there's a dog sitting there perfectly still. Maybe some type of greyhound. Creosote bushes are their perfectly-to-scale forest with plenty of room between bushes for multiple getaways. Heavily predated, they run, hide and breed with great proficiency.

There is something mysterious about the rabbits and hares. Not as much a sense of distrust but an inner alert and meditative wisdom. I was thinking about this stately way of being near the bottom of the food chain, it's strategy of multiple escape plans and it's zig-zag getaway move to throw predators off the trail.


24 June 2016

Cereus Lunix

Every late spring in the Southwest there is great celebration centered around the night blooming cereus. There is a great variety including the Queen of the Night which blooms only once a year. Catching these lotus-like blooms on their special night is a real treat.
Blooming at night makes sense when your main pollinator is bats. The specimen depicted in my piece resides in my back yard. This succulent spreads out low along the ground, usually under shrubs or trees. It's not a Queen of the Night and blooms multiple times a year.

I was thinking about the tissue paper thin petals unfolding in the moon light, the first light to reflect back their pure whiteness. I was thinking about the timing of moon cycles and the quiet glowing shadows it bestows on the ground. Overlaid in the background is a target, personal space symbols and a dotted diagram of moon craters. This one came together nicely and was a fun one to do.