Thursday, May 24, 2012

In the Time of Yucca

Yucca, graphite on paper by Fran Hardy copyright
32 3/4" x 31"

I  just came back from New Jersey on a business trip. I must admit that I loved the lush greenness and the ancient trees of all kinds, especially at night after a rain dripping with water and mist. But when I got back to New Mexico the yuccas were in spectacular bloom everywhere. I couldn't believe how blinding the sunlight felt to me compared to sunny days on the east coast, but I quickly adjusted to the wonderfully intense vibration of light in the high desert. And I am delighting in all the various types of yucca in bloom around Santa Fe. Above is the beginning of my yucca series focusing on the fabulous blooms. That led me to the two more abstracted pieces below.

Dusk, mixed media on panel with sgraffito, 36" x 46" by Fran Hardy copyright

This piece was in a traveling museum show of my work entitled "Pentimento" as I scratched through the various layers to bring forth the yucca flowers and the yellow orbs. It makes me think of fireflies flickering at night.

Annunciation, colored pencil and china marker on acrylic on panel, 36" x 46" by Fran Hardy copyright
fixed and varnished

The background of this piece is based on navajo rug patterns and because of the cross symbolism and the angelic nature of the white yucca flowers I titled it 'Annunciation'. I am spiritually but not religiously oriented but I love the concept and symbolism of the annunciation and the early renaissance paintings of the angel coming to Mary. 

Yucca Tree, acrylic on panel, 52" x 36" by Fran Hardy copyright

This piece is hard to appreciate on this small scale. I saw this incredible type of large yucca in front of a gas station on St. Michael's Drive right in the middle of Santa Fe and hopped out immediately to take reference pictures. Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places.

And now last but not least............
Here are three pieces that I found inspiration for in an incredible, primordial joshua tree forest in north western Arizona when they were in bloom. The blooms are succulent and luscious and smell like hot wax. They are pollinated by a single species of tiny moth called appropriately the yucca moth. They only bloom when the rains come at the right time. 

The first two of these, "Joshua Tree from Above" and "Joshua Tree Blooms" will be in a show entitled "Art Inspired by the Natural World" at Calabi Gallery in Petaluma, CA. Dennis is one of those rare art dealers who is all about the art and treating the artist with great respect. Dealers like him in the increasingly commercial fast sell orientation of today's art world are becoming increasingly hard to find.
The show opens June 21 with a reception from 5-8pm.

Joshua Tree Blooms, watercolor and graphite on panel, 36" x 30", fixed and varnished by Fran Hardy copyright

Joshua Tree from Above, colored pencil on acrylic ground on panel, 43 1/2" x 48" by Fran Hardy copyright, fixed and varnished

Joshua Trees in Bloom, 32" x 50", watercolor and graphite on panel, fixed and varnished
by Fran Hardy copyright

So now you get a glimpse of my obsession with the gnarly radiant beauty of the yucca family. And seeing all the others in bloom here inspires me to do more with our smaller yucca plants that are carpeting our high desert environment. 

For more of my trees go to my website:

To hear more about our documentary projects on the intersection of art, ecological sustainability and cultural preservation go to our website. New Mexico is our next project and we will be receiving funding from the New Mexico Arts Council. We will also be doing further fundraising as they require matching funds. Earthcare New Mexico is our non-profit 501c3 fiscal sponsor so if you want to donate you will receive a tax deduction. 

I am busy getting ready for the show I am curating at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art in conjunction with our Oklahoma documentary which premiered there and will be aired on OETA, Oklahoma PBS.     You can see clips of our shows on the site also.

Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Agavoideae.[2] Its 40-50 species are notable for their rosettes of evergreen, tough, sword-shaped leaves and large terminal panicles of white or whitish flowers. They are native to the hot and dry (arid) parts of North America,Central AmericaSouth America, and the Caribbean. Early reports of the species were confused with the cassava (Manihot esculenta).[3] Consequently,Linnaeus mistakenly derived the generic name from the Carib word for the latter, yuca (spelt with a single "c").[4] It is also colloquially known in the midwest United States as "Ghosts in the graveyard", as it is commonly found growing in rural graveyards and when in bloom the flowers appear as an apparition floating.


Distribution of the capsular fruited species in southwest, midwest USA, Mexico's Baja California and Canada. Overview
The natural distribution range of the genus Yucca (49 species and 24 subspecies) covers a vast area of North and Central America. From Baja California in the west, northwards into the southwestern United States, through the drier central states as far north as Alberta in Canada (Yucca glauca ssp. albertana), and moving east along the Gulf of Mexico, and then north again, through the Atlantic coastal and inland neighbouring states. To the south, the genus is represented throughout Mexico and extends into Guatemala (Yucca guatemalensis). Yuccas have adapted to an equally vast range of climatic and ecological conditions. They are to be found in rocky deserts and badlands, in prairies and grassland, in mountainous regions, in light woodland, in coastal sands (Yucca filamentosa), and even in subtropical and semi-temperate zones, although these are generally arid to semi-arid.
Yuccas have a very specialized, mutualistic pollination system, being pollinated by yucca moths (family Prodoxidae); the insect purposefully transfers thepollen from the stamens of one plant to the stigma of another, and at the same time lays an egg in the flower; the moth larva then feeds on some of the developing seeds, always leaving enough seed to perpetuate the species. Yucca species are the host plants for the caterpillars of the Yucca Giant-Skipper (Megathymus yuccae),[5] Ursine Giant-Skipper (Megathymus ursus),[6] and Strecker's Giant-Skipper (Megathymus streckeri).[7]

Info on Joshua Trees:
To go to Joshua Tree National Park in CA. here is more information on the park.

Yucca brevifolia is a plant species belonging to the genus Yucca. It is tree-like in habit, which is reflected in its common names: Joshua treeyucca palm,tree yucca, and palm tree yucca.[1][2][3]
This monocotyledonous tree is native to southwestern North America in the states of CaliforniaArizonaUtah and Nevada, where it is confined mostly to theMojave Desert between 400 and 1,800 meters (1,300 and 5,900 ft) elevation. It thrives in the open grasslands of Queen Valley and Lost Horse Valley in Joshua Tree National Park. A dense Joshua tree forest also exists in Mojave National Preserve, in the area of Cima Dome.
Two subspecies have been described:[4] Yucca brevifolia ssp. jaegeriana (the Jaeger Joshua tree or Jaeger's Joshua tree or pygmae yucca) and Yucca brevifolia ssp. herbertii (Webber's yucca or Herbert Joshua tree), though both are sometimes treated as varieties[5][6][7] or forms.[8]


The name Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree's unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. Ranchers and miners who were contemporary with the Mormon immigrants also took advantage of the Joshua tree, using the trunks and branches as fencing and for fuel for ore-processing steam engines. It is also called izote de desierto.[9] It was first formally described in the botanical literature as Yucca brevifolia by George Engelmann in 1871 as part of the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel



  1. continue to inspire me! When you need an apprentice or a studio cleaner please let me get in line, I want to breathe the air the occupy.

  2. Thanks Cindy. Hey why not.....maybe down the road? So much to do with our documentaries, my curating and continuing to create my own work. We hope to get to Florida to do more shows and documentaries on the different regions. Non-residents don't know how diverse it is. And I love those cypress swamps, springs, jungle-like native plants. How is your prolific creating going?