chasing julian

lava, shell and found jar with turquoise beads and obsidian on steel. photographs of ancient shell trails printed on aluminum panel

25 cm x 54 cm

chasing julian detail - click to enlarge

|object in private collection|

Chasing Julian is one of a series of objects inspired by the legendary Pinacate region of Sonora, Mexico. Newly christened a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this singular landscape of white sands and black lava is considered by devout desert rats to be the heart and soul of the Sonoran Desert.

I grew up here in T-town and I’d heard the rumors about the hearsay regarding this mythical place — this desert of deserts. So in 2011, I finally found myself bound for the Pinacate. And an hour inside the reserve, I found myself tumbling wide-eyed from my truck. Here was the desert I’d always dreamed of! A landscape flawlessly reflecting the sacred desert inside my heart: no blacktop, no power lines, just stands of ocotillo and saguaro oscillating out to the horizon. An ocean of rocks and cactus. Ravens swimming black against blue sky.

Since December of 2011, I’ve spent more than 150+ days exploring a tiny fraction of this remote and rugged place. Following 4×4 tracks into this nearly 3000 sq. mile reserve, I’d drive until the compulsion to put my feet on the ground was unbearable. I’d hop out, and with my two dogs, a camera and an equal weight of water and Pinacate books poured into my pack, I’d walk off into the lava.

Chasing Julian is one of the results.

Julian is Julian Hayden. Desert archaeologist, silver smith, construction worker, storyteller. Tucsonan. He’s the patron saint of desert rats, mentor and friend to Charles Bowden, Bill Broyles, Ed Abbey, and dozens of other artists, writers, photographers and scientists who’ve made of the Sonoran Desert, a life. For nearly 40 years, Julian discovered, mapped and cataloged hundreds of archaeology sites and nearly a thousand miles of prehistoric trail throughout the Pinacate. If you were interested in the Pinacate — you could always knock on Julian’s door.

Walking alone in that desert day after day, I began to feel a mystical connection to Julian. I had a profound sense of being guided by an old friend. There were times I resisted the urge to look in a particular direction because I was certain I’d catch him stepping just out of view.

The photographic plates in Chasing Julian are of footpaths desert archaeologists call ‘shell trails’. For thousands of years, people used these trails to transport goods and culture across this vast and arid land. Up until the arrival of Europeans, these trails were a tiny fraction of a system that stretched from the arctic to Tierra del Fuego. With the exception of only a few extremely arid places like the Pinacate, these ancient trails have disappeared due to erosion, ranching and development. The black lava included in the sculpture was once part of the desert pavement kicked out by someone else’s tires long ago. The jar is partially filled with stones excavated by harvester ants. Surveying for sites in the desert, archaeologists search these mounds for artifacts — beads, bits of shell or obsidian — fragments of history pulled from a dark sleep. The beautiful shell, I found while walking along the Sea of Cortez.

I consider myself a poet and my objects, cairns. They are simple shrines of stone, steel, wood and bone left along the trail between here and there. Poems of place and time.

Detail photo of Julian Hayden taken by Jack Dykinga

This object was on display @ Atlas Gallery in the group exhibition :: The Exotic Sublime: Explorations of the Desert Southwest in Tucson, Arizona from October 5 to November 30, 2013

This object was one of four objects displayed @ Tohono Chul Park in the exhibit :: Metal, Stone & Wood inTucson, Arizona from June 1 to September 1, 2013

This object was included in my solo exhibition :: chasing julian at the WEE Gallery in Tucson, Arizona, February 2013.


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