How I started making art for wildlife

I was at a student party for a visiting artist to the University, at an art professor’s house. We were eating, drinking, talking about art, joking around, and somehow the word “Hydroglyph” came popping out of the conversation. I froze. It was the word, the idea, the turning point I’d been looking for. An image–shapes carved in rock, filled with water—appeared in my head. I would go out and make the first piece of art for wildlife, a carving in desert stone to capture water for wildlife. So it began.
I had been thinking about making art for animals. I’d had something of an art career in ceramics, creating pots for eating, followed by more abstract vessels about my relationship with the place I lived and the way we related to the immense landscape and abundant wildlife. I’d been looking at Earthworks, the large scale macho artworks out in the western deserts, often bulldozed out of pristine landscapes. I’d been thinking that perhaps there could be a smaller, more feminine gesture of caring for landscape and environment. I’d been working on a theory that if we are the wealthiest culture in history, wasn’t it appropriate to share some of that abundance with other species. And, if art was one of the “cutting edge” aspects of civilization, couldn’t that gesture across species lines be an artwork?

a natural desert waterhole


Having been raised in the New Mexico deserts and mesas, I was familiar with the magic of finding a pool of water trapped in rock, how precious it was, how whole life webs developed in the longer lasting ones. They were known as Tinajas, water capture basins in the desert. Soon after the party, I was rock scrambling among huge boulders and came up on a tinaja. Yes, I thought, that’s what I’m doing. So I did.

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