In my studio I have a number of unfinished projects just waiting for the day they get moved to the top of my “to do” list. I begin every summer with the intention of finishing all of them, but that hasn’t happened yet! This summer “ Spirit of the Desert” made it to the top of my list and I am happy to say it is done!.
I started it over five years ago. I had built a polymer clay head and finished it with acrylic paint, pearl powders and amber shellac. I then torched it to bubble and move the shellac which resulted in very interesting the final surface. But the project came to a halting stop when it came to deciding just how I was going to use it. The head needed some kind of a base or body. I knew I wanted it to sit among dessert detritus but none of the cholla stems, wooden sticks, or unique rocks I had gathered suited the mood I was trying to create so I set everything aside for another year. Every summer I would revisit the box containing the components and I’d start pondering the problem again all over again with little success.
Then last year I came up with the idea of creating my own base. I used a can filled with gravel and covered it with “desert-like” texture. At last I was moving forward! I realized that the fragile plant materials that I wanted to use needed some form of treatment to preserve them. I determined that encaustic made from amber beeswax and damar varnish would be an excellent solution, so I treated my collection of pods and leaves with the encaustic and set them aside. Once again I was in a holding pattern waiting for my muse to divulge the next step.
My vision was to create a soulful image that conveyed the joy and wonder I feel here in the Sonoran desert. When we first moved here from a lush northern California environment, I felt I was in strange terrain – dry, hot, prickly and mostly devoid of life. Was I ever wrong! I came to enjoy this desert that specializes in survivorship! It’s hard to live here with so little water and so much heat, but desert creatures have accommodated with thick skins, hard covered seeds, shallow roots and special leaf structures to soak up the moisture when it’s available. It’s a tribute to the adaptability of life on our planet!
This summer I discovered the project box in the back of my art closet and decided this was the year to get it finished! It lived on my art table for several weeks while I arranged and re-arranged and adjusted the materials until finally, I was ready to commit to the final assembly. With a little cheering from some of my art friends I present to you the finished “Spirit of the Desert”.