Creating the Canvas: A collaboration between Scott Bennett and Tom Baumgartner

Image courtesy of Scott Bennett

Baumgartner, Tom, Bennett, Scott, Gavenus, Erika | June 15, 2017

Over the past weeks, the MAHB has had the pleasure of sharing the incredible collaborative work being created by the teams of 6&6. Forged by the Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers network (N-Gen,, 6&6 is a collaboration between artists and scientists to explore the patterns and processes of the Sonoran Desert and Gulf of California. The MAHB has shared the partnerships of:

  • Ben Wilder and Ben Johnson, working to present the multi-layered story of the pozos, or fresh-water springs, in northwestern Mexico’s Grand Desierto and consider how our relationship to water has changed.
  • Chip Hedgcock and Mark A. Dimmitt, presenting the diaphanous plants of the Sonoran Desert and their unique sparseness through lumen printing.
  • Heather Green and Taylor Edwards, featuring the chuckwalla of La Cholla and how isolation has become its reality.
  • Eric Magrane and Maria Johnson, bringing attention to the by-catch of the shrimp trawling fishery in Mexico’s Gulf of California through illustration, poetry, video, and installation.
  • Kathleen Velo and Michael Bogan, finding ways to combine Kathleen’s underwater photogram work with Michael’s aquatic ecology research on desert freshwater communities.

This week we are highlighting the final team, Scott Bennett and Tom Baumgartner, who are creating the canvas upon which these other projects are positioned. Bennett is a field geologist working with the USGS and Baumgartner is an artist with extensive experience in data visualization and illustration. Together they are creating artistic renderings of how the physical landscape of the Gulf of California evolved through time — over the past 11 million years. In a project aiming to explore the patterns and processes of the Sonoran Desert and Gulf of California, Bennett and Baumgartner’s work provides a sense of how those patterns came to be –the geologic and plate tectonic forces behind the isolated mountains of La Cholla, the critical existence of the pozos, the rich marine resources of the Gulf, and even the desert itself. Baumgartner explains, “We’re going to step back in time and show not only the movement of different land masses but also the topography.”

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New Perspectives on Disturbances and Flow: A collaboration between Kathleen Velo and Michael Bogan exploring the Santa Cruz River drainage basin

The Rillito River, a tributary of the Santa Cruz River near Tucson, Arizona | Image by Michael Bogan

Bogan, Michael, Clark, Sarah, Gavenus, Erika, Velo, Kathleen | June 2, 2017

Kathleen Velo and Michael Bogan have only recently teamed up through the 6&6 Collaboration, but they have wasted no time in getting their project moving forward. Forged by the Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers network (N-Gen,, 6&6 is a collaboration between artists and scientists to explore the patterns and processes of the Sonoran Desert and Gulf of California. Velo explains, “We got a late start, because of different incidents and events that took place. We’re not rushing to catch up, we’re just flowing along and making sense of things as we go.” After an earlier collaboration didn’t work out due to diverging areas of interest, Velo and Bogan connected back in November. During their first meeting over coffee they discussed “if, and where, there were some natural connections” between their work, and found that a lot of their interests, and the scale they worked at, aligned very well. Bogan is an aquatic ecologist who researches how disturbances to ecosystems, such as wildfires, droughts, or mining spills, shape the types of species found in freshwater lakes and streams. Velo is a photographic artist who has been working with the topics of water and water flow for about seven years. Velo goes “directly into the source to create primarily underwater photograms that show some of the effects of the disturbances that Michael was talking about, to water sources.”

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Bycatch –The Complexities of Shrimp Trawling in the Gulf of California: A collaboration between Maria Johnson and Eric Magrane

Johnson and Magrane in front of Bycatch video installation at University of Arizona Museum of Art, February 2017, courtesy of Maria Johnson and Eric Magrane; photo courtesy of Gina Compitello, University of Arizona Museum of Art

Gavenus, Erika, Johnson, Maria, Magrane, Eric | May 25, 2017

You walk in and find your friend already seated at a bar table near the back of the room. As you approach you note that they have gone ahead and ordered some glasses of wine and beautiful shrimp cocktails. You pull up a stool and prepare to dig in, but notice something unexpected –a large installation on the wall is playing a video. As you watch, you realize the video is showing the process of shrimp trawling in the Gulf of California. The process behind the shrimp so elegantly displayed before you. A process so rarely considered, shared, or depicted –something it has in common with many of our food systems.

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The Implications of Isolation: A Collaboration Between Heather Green and Taylor Edwards

Edwards, Taylor, Gavenus, Erika, Green, Heather | May 18, 2017

A chuckwalla in La Cholla, March 2017 courtesy of Heather Green & Taylor Edwards

Fine artist and educator Heather Green, has teamed up with herpetologist and geneticist, Taylor Edwards, for the 6&6 Collaboration. Forged by the Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers network (N-Gen,, 6&6 is a collaboration between artists and scientists to explore the patterns and processes of the Sonoran Desert and Gulf of California. Green and Edwards started the collaboration from scratch –with lots of ideas and concepts, but no tangible project in mind. Geographically, they narrowed in on Bahía La Cholla, an area they are both familiar with and in which Green has worked extensively. “We went about a year ago down to Cholla Bay along the Gulf of California and examined all of the different biomes that comprise the bay. We were sort of thinking that we might get into something marine.”

As is often the case, nature had other plans. During that same field visit as they hiked along the periphery of a small mountain Edwards and Green spotted some chuckwalla (a large lizard primarily found in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico). Despite years exploring and working in the region, Green had never seen a live chuckwalla in the area, only skeletal remains: “I’ve always had an interest in trying to find a chuckwalla, and never in all my years of going down had I ever seen one before.”

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The Unusual Form of Diaphanous Plants: A collaboration between Mark Dimmitt and Charles Hedgcock

Dimmitt, Mark, Gavenus, Erika, Hedgcock, Charles | May 11, 2017 | Baja elephant trees (Bursera microphylla) by Mark Dimmitt

Have you ever tried looking for shade in the desert only to find that the plants are unable to fully block the intense sunshine? What might feel like a particularly unkind slight in your time of desperation, is actually an incredible adaptation of some desert plants. Iain Robertson, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Washington, first recognized this property of desert plants in the mid-1990s and began using the term diaphanous plants to describe them. Unlike plants from wetter habitats that boast leafy, dense canopies, diaphanous plants have such sparse stems and foliage you can often see right through them. In a land of intense sunlight and limited water, diaphanous plants have adapted to minimize transpiration and sun exposure. In adapting to their extreme conditions these plants are largely unique to the desert and hard to find in more forgiving systems. But in the Sonoran Desert they thrive, their odd forms defining the landscape.

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