Serial Saguaro, a series of on-site paintings on Tumamoc by Meredith Milstead

A Serial Painter at Large

Meredith Milstead on Tumamoc

Serial Saguaro, a series of on-site paintings on Tumamoc by Meredith Milstead
Serial Saguaro, a series of on-site pastel paintings made at different times of day on Tumamoc Hill, by Meredith Milstead

TUMAMOC HILL is a place in Tucson where I observe and experience “biodiversity” in an “artistic” way. This Spring I chronicled a saguaro cactus blooming. It took about two months with twelve 2-hour visits to the same cactus. I made a different painting for almost each hour of the day. (The painting shows, from upper left to bottom right, the dawn to dusk sequence).

The color of light changes throughout the day and since I am interested in color, it made sense to come at different times to look for different colors and color effects. I now understand more about the Saguaro (and myself), which is always a subtext of this work–to learn.

The most memorable insight gained was unexpected. I was able to visit the Cactus 11 times while it bloomed. But, when I returned to make the last square the bloom was over. As I sat on that same rock and observed the evening light, the feel was very different, the frenzy of reproduction over. The cactus came across calm and strong, so different from the bloom-time in the strong sunlight.

At first I thought that my project was a failure because this last square would not be blooming. Yet, if I hadn’t made that last trip, after all the flowering action was over, I wouldn’t have experienced the sense of calm in the now-quiet, strong, spent cactus. All the time I had spent looking at that cactus had formed a bond between us. Those feelings were transferred to me somehow, enabling an unexpected equanimity or peaceful feeling. A mutual Adieu!

Nature is the best teacher, no doubt.

–Meredith Milstead


You can read more about Meredith’s painting excursions on her blog

Meredith painting with pastels on Tumamoc Hill
Meredith Milstead painting the saguaro arm with pastels on Tumamoc Hill.
pastel underpainting
Meredith starts with an underpainting of the dominant color she senses in the light environment.
pastel painting in progress by meredith milstead
The pastel work in progress.

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