"Saint Joshua," my Joshua Tree Painting is a story that starts way back at the beginning of 2019. This was before murder hornets, war, and pandemic shutdowns there was another type of pause in normalcy; the government shutdown. One of the unintended consequences of our two-party system is their throwing fits instead of problem-solving. Government shutdowns are when the national parks went unfunded, unstaffed, and often abandoned. Some people took the opportunity to hop some chain link and visit a park for free, while a few decided to have a free for all.
What Inspired The Joshua Tree Painting
I remember watching a news clip about Joshua Tree National Park, where ancient, endangered trees had been toppled by, you guessed it, people. There I was, horrified and angry! I own a jeep, I like hitting the trails as much as anyone, but the stupid, senseless destruction of the park and its trees felt like one more instance of humans leaving things worse than when they arrived, and it disgusted me. I won't get into the gory details, but here's a link to a New York Times article from that January if you want to read a bit more about it.
As an artist whose mind works like a movie screen, playing scenes of whatever I happen to be thinking about, I felt like I should do something, however small that something might be. I wanted to represent the beauty of the Mojave desert and the Joshua Tree's unique part in that particular ecosystem. Maybe if I could help people connect to the trees and raise awareness about them, more people might see them as something great instead of target practice. I had recently traveled through Southeastern Oregon, California, and Nevada on my way to visit family in Arizona and remembered the peace and beauty of the desert.
What Are Joshua Trees?
Joshua trees are a type of yucca plant and a member of the agave family. They grow very, very slowly. A young plant might grow up to five inches in its first few years, but a mature plant grows between 0.5 and 3 inches per year. During drought-driven years, they may not grow at all.
This slow, steady existence provides stability to other desert life forms. Joshua Tree flowers are some of the only available wet food for insects, ravens, and squirrels in the spring. Their limbs serve as shelter and shade to desert creatures in an otherwise sparse landscape. The relationship between the yucca moth and Joshua trees is a unique and ancient partnership, dating back millions of years.
Joshua trees produce pollen but no nectar, so they are not attractive to most pollinators. The yucca moth has specifically evolved with Joshua trees, though, and each is dependent on the other. Yucca moths collect pollen in their tiny mouths, depositing it onto different flowers, and they then lay their eggs in the flowers. When yucca moth caterpillars hatch, they eat the Joshua tree seeds, which are their only food source. They then crawl to the ground to form cocoons, and the cycle begins again. The trees need moths and vice versa, which is different from the usual pollination system. Generally, plants have something pollinators want, and pollination is a beneficial side effect. Joshua trees and yucca moths work together in perfect harmony, each necessary for the others' survival.
Where To Get A Joshua Tree Painting?
I hope to share Joshua Tree's importance with people who might not have a connection to the desert. Its beauty is different from the verdant foliage of the pacific northwest or the colorful flowers and fruits in tropical landscapes. It's full of complex, slow-growing life that can calm your soul if you sit with it. The open sky and land can also bring a sense of freedom and adventure from inside a jeep. Nothing beats crawling over rocks and steep grades (but stay on the trails, people!).
With that in mind, I will be donating $10 of all print sales from this painting to Joshua Tree National Park.