My Desert Observations

In winter I explore the mysteries of the Sonoran Desert.  It is there that I wander among the giant saguaros, saddened by their impending extinction as invasive buffelgrass swallows up their hope for survival.

I hike among the ravages of the 2020 Big Horn fires that devastated much of the natural desert vegetation in the Santa Catalina Mountains.  This ripe environment encourages invasive buffelgrass to smother anything that has a chance of growth in the harsh desert climate.

The rituals and traditions of the tribes native to the region continue to inspire me. My Shadow Dancers is a newly added page to my site.  I chose black and white as the best way to interpret my observations. 

My Musings from the Road is another new page added to my site exploring the vastness and quirkiness that is the United States.  In this examination I use a mix of soft focus and hard lines in black and white to interpret my journey. 

It’s Two Years

It is two years now since the Covid pandemic sent me scampering home from my winter desert retreat. Initially I wandered my Pittsburgh neighborhood streets observing the eerie vacancy. I came to realize that slowing down and carefully examining my immediate world wasn’t a bad thing.  Staying safe while doing this was critical. 

My first project came to be titled My Empty Streets.  Black and white captures of the emptiness reflected my mood and observations. I began adding color to my captures. I took cuttings of native plants I saw along my walks.   As my streets came alive after hibernating I continued this exploration of my immediate neighborhood.  Always mindful not to trespass when cutting a slip to take home to photograph. I began this exploration feeling safe in my studio. 

While my streets are bustling and no longer empty, I continue expanding my knowledge base and deepen my botanical studies. These ongoing observations have coalesced into a long term project entitled Field Studies from My Empty Streets. 

One Year Later

It is a year now since I packed up and fled my winter desert retreat.  As I watched borders closing and people succumbing to this virus it was a race against time to return safely to my Pittsburgh home. I felt a fear unknown to me in my lifetime.  This intangible enemy was wreaking havoc on the entire planet.  All I thought about was getting home to close the door on the craziness that was exploding around me.

It became clear that sheltering in place would be the norm for the foreseeable future.  What did this mean?  Would my friends and loved ones survive this pandemic?  Would I survive?  Would I live to see my unborn grandchild? What was it safe to do?  So many unanswerable questions even the esteemed Dr. Anthony Fauci could not answer.

Turning inward I embraced this time to reflect upon my photography practice.  I decided to become friends with my tripod and experiment in low light settings using flashlights as my light source.   My subjects were botanical cuttings I collected on daily neighborhood walks.  This slow time allowed me to really see and enjoy the emergence of spring.  I researched the stems I brought home as well as noting where I found them.  I began to think of myself as a plant thief.  I didn’t feel guilt, as these blooms were subjects of my artistry.  Safe in My StudioNative Plant Discovery developed into a long-term project examining the native plants in my immediate surroundings. 

Lace Cap Hydrangea Study

My Empty Streets fulfilled my need to document this place in history.  The overwhelming sense of despair, loneliness and fear was palpable.       


My Empty Streets

We are at an interesting time in history. Of greatest importance is that guidelines for staying safe and healthy are respected.

As an artist having this time of isolation is a unique gift for creative self exploration. It is a time to assess past work and projects and work on new ideas. Time in the studio is always a bonus. I started a project I call Safe in My Studio. On my walks I collect dried flowers that have weathered the winter months as well as newly budding trees and shrubs. I then explore various lighting techniques.

When on my walks I see and capture the ways in which my Pittsburgh community is dealing with this pandemic. I call this project My Empty Streets.