Friday, February 26, 2010

Terrasante, a desert lifestyle

Extreme change is how I would describe my coming to Terrasante. The desert, filled with stabbing, yet, beautiful and unusual plants and animals. Mountains, yet, huge flat expanses. Above is my naked Earth Mother lying in the desert about half a mile north of Route 86, the Ajo Way, between mile marker 155 and 154. She is approximately 50 feet long but now that I see her I realize she needs to be much, much bigger. Much bigger.

Ever since I saw the photos of Nazca, Peru where lines have been drawn into the land that could only be seen from the sky, I've wanted to create some giant drawing-scapes of my own. By the time I started this piece I had already found two other sites where I'd scratched out my drawings in the sand, but I was never able to find them again. This was my third try and this time I dragged my shovel behind me in the muddy sand to give myself a line to follow on my return. Evidence of tire tracks and many broken bottles littered the barren rise of land. I quickly sketched my Earth Mother design out. I could see that she was foreshortened because at my height I could see very little of the drawing. It took me several days to rework her and dig all around her to give her depth, then I raked all the loose soil out in a halo around her. Chris Vansprouts, the community's webperson, told me that if I positioned the Earth Mother east/west to "mess up" and redirect some of the many little arroyos (going north and south) carrying water away across the desert and create habitats. The experiment is to see if these creases I'm shoveling out of the sandy clay will hold water and become habitat for plant and animal life. I'm hoping to visit it next year and see how my Earth Mother survived the rains and winds. My first day there I hadn't even noticed the tires stacked in messy piles about 50 feet away. Duh. It wasn't until I was ready to leave that I took some photos of the neighboring area that I finally saw them. I decided then and there to make them part of my piece. I dragged 13 smaller tires over and used them as a barrier around the Earth Mother.

To get the shot below I had to hold my camera way over my head and shoot blind.

Now for the fun story. I was getting so frustrated trying to "see" my Earth Mother - the half a mile hike through cacti had kept me from dragging a ladder to the site, that I began visualizing myself flying above in a small aircraft. That's why when I had to run errands in town (bank, gas, water) I decided on the way back to stop at the Ryan Airfield. I went to the offices but they were closed so I went to the next room which was labeled for pilot's only. I knocked and a guy came out. I told him about my frustrations about being unable to see my naked Earth Mother, which was only about 5 miles up the road, so close. I asked him how many millions of dollars it would cost to get someone to take me over to see it. His interest awakened, he said that he'd take me up for free. Since I could afford the price I agreed and luckily had brought my camera with me. Above, you can see how the Earth Mother looked from the plane. This is when I learned that I have to make my pieces even bigger, much bigger. What I wasn't prepared for was getting very airsick, not enough to be sick, but enough to feel horrible and wish I was on land again. Below, Mike Noel, the pilot who kindly aided and abetted me is standing next to his aircraft. I appreciate his gallantry and adventurous spirit.

My work exchange was to create a video for Terrasante that can be used to educate people about what the community here is doing. In the end I created two small videos that I uploaded to Youtube. If you want to get a sense of the people I met here, watch these.

Last, but not least, I want to show a local phenomena, the nearby moon mirror which is explained at It was built by a local man who spent $2 million creating it to help a friend of his with cancer.

I especially want to thank Chris Vansprout for his kindness in showing me around when I first got to Terrasante, introducing me to everyone and being my friend. And I want to thank both Chris and Cliff for their computer advise and help. Thanks!!

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