Gold in the Desert

Update on Leave Nothing, Take Only Gold Hearts

My environmental-ish Gold Hearts project was launched a couple of months ago and although I did not get as much of a response as I had anticipated, it was a great experience and helped me to understand the nature of my target audience now. I learned that the expectation of the viewer is instant gratification; that I must relay the message in seconds, not minutes. Also, I may have underestimated the nature of hikers in the desert to NOT take something found. The old saying does say take ONLY PICTURES, leave nothing behind.

I am thankful to those who did participate. Thanks for making my day and look out for other artistic ambushes in the future!

Utopian Reflections

A few months ago I began a photographic project based around the idea of Utopia and the Utopian living being created in certain neighborhoods near where I live. I‘ve been shooting a lot and have a large pool of photographs. During in-class critiques I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from my peers, but it seems like more questions of me and my intentions are being asked. A lot of suggestions for where other people would like to see my work have been brought up, but I do not want my ideas to be misinterpreted.

Because of this, I’ve been reflecting on my desires for this work a lot lately. I’ve been re-grouping, which is sometimes needed for artists like me who can deviate from the plan. Some blurbs I want to covey: Approaching this place/questioning conformity, under-workings, expectations of the American dream, dream-like/fantasy land, use of space and highly-manicured dead space. I still have so many tangents of this work I want to explore soon, but I need to remember to complete one project at a time. I think now I am back on track for completing this work and I can’t wait to get this work up.

Live at Biodome… Say Whaa?

Last semester my professor Betsy Schneider informed us we would be taking a trip to Biosphere 2 in Oracle, AZ. This place is not too far from home for me and I have often driven past the junction to the dome on the way to Tucson, but I never thought to visit. We were going to speak with Judy Natal who was a working artist in residency at the Biosphere 2.

Although it was not at all what I had expected, the trip was great! For those of you who don’t know (or didn’t watch ridiculous 90’s movies) Biosphere 2 was an experiment performed to see if humans could sustain life on another planet inside a dome like the one built, by maintaining their own livestock and growing their own food. The project was somewhat of an epic fail, but what remains in this space is the ability to understand other ecosystems at work and an amazing muse for contemplation of future life. The interaction between man-made sterility and overtaking nature is breathtaking. I couldn’t help but to photograph a little myself via camera phone.

We visited with Judy in her home/studio nestled across from the Catalina Mountains and on the pathway to the huge biosphere. She explained how living onsite fostered the growth in her photographic project Future Perfect. She was the creator of this residency which continues on, and explained the process of how we as artists could live where they wanted to work. You have 24/7 access to your inspiration and community interaction you otherwise wouldn’t get.

I would enjoy a residency at Biosphere 2 in the future because it appeals to my interests in land use and the desert. The spiritual connection you can find alone mountain-top has always been my favorite; now to imagine living this way for weeks or months sounds like an amazing opportunity for artistic exploration. I also love the fact that it is only about an hour drive from my home, so I will not miss out on my family, which is a big consideration for an artist with young children. If I were to live here I would love to hike daily to the surrounding unpopulated areas to work. Having a home base already atop a mountain would make view camera shooting so much more feasible in the desert. I am excited to look into this residency as a future stepping stone to creating.

Judy Natal finished her project which just went on display in her hometown, Chicago. You can see more of her work from this series Future Perfect at


Leave Nothing, Take Only Gold Hearts



– Just upload/or link me a photo of you with the heart through my blog post and I will send you a signed original piece of artwork!

– I will make you the 8×10” black and white silver gelatin signed photograph (unframed) of your choice from my collection.

– Multiple hearts at these locations:


– Subscribe to my blog before October 5th nd I will donate $2 on your behalf to the Arizona State Parks Conservation fund (up to   $1000).

This experience is for the other observers of the land, like me, to be rewarded and it serves as a reminder to enjoy and embrace what we have in our wonderful desert landscape. Thank you in advance to all participants! I will keep the blog updated as to the results. Good luck & happy hunting!!!


Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water spray across empty, but perfectly manicured lawns in the desert each day. Sprinkler heads pop up from their hiding spots to create lush green grass in this arid landscape. Natural desert is torn away so agave plants, tan rock, and mesquite trees can be arranged for a more appropriate desert landscape. We relocate 100 year old cacti from their native homes to be propped up on the sides of freeways.

Does anyone ever stop and think this is odd? Why is this happening? I can understand aesthetically appealing, but is it to such an extent that we need to manufacture or re-create an entire ecosystem for our visual pleasure? Not only are the man-power and resources needed to maintain such an illusion mind-boggling to me, but in some cases these severely altered terrains have left this Arizona native feeling like I just stepped into the Twilight Zone.

While traveling around, I have come across many disturbing housing/business/recreational areas that I feel are so far out of the realm of desert life that I’ve decided to highlight them in my upcoming photographic series… Utopia.