Last week as I visited some artists’ studios in Scottsdale, Arizona, I was reminded of what the Scottsdale Celebration of Fine Art refers to as the “pristine beauty, luminous sunlight, and mysteriousness of the Sonoran Desert” that has attracted artists to the area year after year. Some people think of the desert as desolate, harsh, and restrictive, but many artists have found their inspiration in this environment. They’ve moved past the stretches of sunbaked sand, scorpions, rattlesnakes, extreme temperatures, Javelina, thorny plant life, Gila monsters, circling buzzards, and bobcats. The artistic work is diverse. While some see and create from the starkness, others base their art on the amazing array of colors and shapes. The constraints of the desert environment at first glance are then turned into an extraordinary sculpture, painting or piece of jewelry in the hands of the artist. The works use a wide variety of materials—stone, acrylic on canvas, watercolor, metals, and all sorts of natural objects—to draw you in to look more closely and to consider the indescribable spirit of the desert.
The desert and the ocean are realms of desolation on the surface….
Dare to breach the surface…
~ Vera Nazarian
Check out these oil paintings of the Saguaro Cactus of the Sonoran Desert, these Vibrant Desert Landscapes by a contemporary southwest artist, or the way artist Ed Mell exploits and manipulates the natural colors of the Southwest.
As I walked among these extraordinary works of art, I thought about the depth of understanding for what at first seems to be challenging, adverse, or harsh conditions. In many ways, all of us have an opportunity like this to see beyond the razor sharp and jagged edges in our daily lives. We can make a distinction between the physicality of where we stand and the way we frame the picture in our mind’s eye. There is an inherent value judgment associated with what we see.
The beauty of the desert as seen through the eyes of artists reminds all of us that sometimes the greatest discoveries are made by exploring inner space, the creative consciousness that might be found in the cracks and crevices of our belief system. Arts Awareness has everything to do with how we perceive our world. It invites us to see beyond what is visible to see things in a new light. The next time you “see a desert,” try to make a point of seeing beyond what appears to you to be most visible. As Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It’s so beautiful.
~ Forest Gump
Look beyond apparent desolation to value what you may not have previously taken a second look at. See the remarkable quality of light and the fossils of the past that might hinder your experience of the present.
I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams….
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
(The Little Prince)
Paul Klee said, “Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.” Look with the eyes of an artist.