Day 220: Laurie Nessel

My art expresses both my fascination with and concern about my home, the Sonoran desert. The adaptations of both plants and animals have created a delicate web of life that is threatened on multiple fronts, mostly anthropogenic. My work is didactic, compulsive and penitent.

I also have descriptions for each image:

Beads:  This new series of Sonoran Desert Natives combines various flameworking techniques: marbling, zanfirico, striped cane, ribbon cane, and raking. Colors are mixed by hand to achieve verisimilitude.

The early subjects feature lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) on their host plants.

Gray Hairstreak

The Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), one of the most common lycaenids in North America, is visiting a flattop buckwheat Eriogonum fasciculatum, nectaring in exchange for pollinating the plant. Look for cryptic hairstreak larvae amongst the inflorescence by following congregations of attendant ants that tend to and feed on their secretions.

During feeding, the hind wings rub against each other, moving the elongated hindwing “tail”. Nearby eyespots enhance the appearance of a false head and antennae to divert predators from vital body parts.

Marine Blue

Marine Blues (Leptotes marina) can be found year-round in the desert and as migrants in temperate zones. They have adapted to disturbed habitat and can have multiple broods in a season. These traits allow Marine Blues to be common and widespread. Their host plants include legumes such as this Parry’s false prairie-clover (Marina parryi) which can bloom anytime of year, even during dry spells.


The iconic Monarchs (Danaus plexippus), portrayed here as chrysalis, larva, and adult on their desert host plant, desert milkweed (Asclepias subulata, have won admiration for their remarkable migration as adults from as far as southern Canada to a handful of wintering grounds in Central Mexico, a 2,000 mile journey, where they survive the season in a torpor on oyamel firs. Come spring, these adults fly northwards, laying eggs on the way that as adults continue the journey northwards. Another two generations develop on the summer breeding grounds. The final, longer-lived generation completes the cycle by migrating south. Monarchs east of the Rockies overwinter in Mexico, and west of the Rockies overwinter in California. Those that pass through Arizona have been found in both wintering grounds.

With less than 10% of Monarchs successfully conquering a multitude of obstacles along their life cycle, including loss of habitat, predators, weather, auto strikes, pesticides and herbicides, their population status appears dire. You can help by planting milkweed, advocating for their habitat and against herbicides and pesticides, and assisting in citizen science research.

Biophany, oil on panel, 2018

The Sonoran desert uplands is home to hundreds of plant and animal species (many endemics) and thousands of arthropods. This makes the Sonoran desert the most biologically diverse in the world. All species thrive on summer rains, including the blooming ocotillo, desert tortoise and others depicted in this scene.

Monarch #4 (1)
Monarch #4


Marine Blue #4 Front and Back



Marine-Blue-#3 Front-&-Back-I
Marine Blue #3 Front and Back



Gray Hairstreak #3


Biophany (27)
Biophany, oil on panel, 2018





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