9 April 2019
Some of the early cacti are blooming, and it's thrilling to watch this happening! I have several areas where I walk, and I've seen the prickly pear cactus starting to flower. It feels like such a special event, because it's seasonal. And in a dry dry desert, where the air and ground are so arid, it seems almost miraculous to see these gorgeous colorful flowers coming out of the dusty and desiccated-looking cactus plants.
But before I blog about the cactus flowers (because I'm waiting for the height of the flowering season for the prickly pears), I want to blog about the saguaro cactus murals I found.
These are wonderful tile murals that portray the life of saguaro cactus. I found these murals at the far end of the shopping area around Richard's physical therapy place. I like to walk for a bit before I go inside, and one sunny morning I found these incredibly detailed murals.
Each mural is set in a steel sort of sign holder, and is roughly two and a half feet by five feet (.8 x 1.6 meters maybe) - and is comprised of 72 tiles, six tiles wide by twelve tiles tall. And each mural is on the front and back of the holder, so there are only four holders but a total of eight murals.
There aren't any signs at the site telling us who these murals were designed by, no name of the artist or art group. But with my google search skills, I found out that Steve Farley, at Tilography made these murals.
Here's the website: http://www.tilography.com/privateart.htm
Anyway, the murals! I've taken a distance photo of each, and then one or two close up photos so you can see the details.
We have a cactus wren hovering near the saguaro - at least I'm guessing this is a cactus wren. There are some birds who repeatedly peck holes in the saguaro and then enlarge the holes, making a cozy den in which to build their nests and raise their young.
Two murals have two different color saguaro flowers - and yes, the same kind of cactus can have different color flowers, depending on the plant. Just like we can have red roses and white roses, we can have red or white saguaro flowers. The flowers seem to only cover the top or crown of the saguaro. They aren't blossoming quite yet, but I hope to see some later in May, saguaro season!
One mural shows the dried flowers turning into the saguaro fruit. These are gathered by the Tohono O'odham people, who make sweets and condiments with the fruit. Yes, the fruit are way on the top of the saguaros - but the people learned to take the inside spines of dead saguaros, and use these to knock the fruit off the top of the saguaros.
There's even a mural showing the beginning of one of the arms which make the saguaros so unique and so human like.
I've included close up photos so you can see the detail of this mural series.
Before I found the name of the artist and his business, I looked closely at these murals to figure out how the images were made. It actually is an ingenious technique, although I'm not positive what all the steps are.
Basically, it seems the artist took photos of live saguaro. He may have used these to draw black and white images of the saguaro, or he may have used the actual photos. Then, using either drawings or contact images (might be using a different term, but basically a black on clear film image printed to life size), the image is transferred to either unglazed clay tiles or, less likely, a huge slab of unfired clay that is cut into the tile shapes. (It would save a step to transfer the image onto unglazed clay tiles.)
Once the image is transferred, then each tile would be glazed and fired. I would imagine there is also a numbering system, maybe on the reverse side of each tile, so that the artist knows where to place each tile for the finished mural. Usually a grid system is used, or at least that's what I did with the mosaic murals my classes made at school.
Anyway, the detail is amazing! Look at some of the closeups, and you can see every single needle coming out in little starbursts along the pleats of the saguaros. The colors vary so you can see the different needles, and this gives more depth to the image. But I can't figure out any other way to reasonably get that kind of detail in a mural of this size.
It also is very cool the way the image is comprised of a matrix of tiles, rather than cutting different colored tiles into the shapes necessary for creating the image.
So tiles plus photography maybe equals Tilography? That's what I'm thinking, anyway.
Our readers know by now that I love murals, especially mosaic murals. And this series featuring the emblem of the Sonoran Desert, the saguaro, is truly a special gift!!!
The whole shopping center has some quirky sculptures scattered around. A wagon with a bag of money by the bank, a woman with a shopping cart near the natural foods market.
My two favorite sculptures are the man taking a photo of the Catalina Hills, except the image is really a mural of the Catalinas! Just an art joke, sort of.
And outside the Italian restaurant, a nice metal man shares his metal pasta with a friendly metal dog.
Yeah, this is my morning walk two days a week - I visit my sculpture friends and my ceramic cactus friends.
They seem happy to see me on my morning jaunts, too.