This and the next few posts will take a different angle on the idea of isolated "oases." The "greenery" in this work suggests no feeling of relief or protection - of course a great deal less than the beleaguered palms in Refuges. The lechuguilla plants (Agave lechuguilla) in the foreground, as succulents, exist as much because of the desert's harsh environment as in spite of it. Their hardiness, ironically, is additional evidence of their struggle against these conditions.
I envision the entire landscape as a somewhat elliptical island; as in High Desert, which contains the same image of Death Valley, I've erased the distant mountains behind the slope in the background to suggest ocean beyond. The agaves are located a short distance away from the windy summit of the island - a gentle "rise" rather than a sharp peak, situated close to one of the foci of the ellipse. (It's occurring to me now that it might be interesting to draw an actual map to accompany some of these works, rather than just a vague description of what I'm imagining.) The sliver of white suggests either the open sky seen from that vantage point, or light mist obscuring the land below.
Despite being less than a foot high, the patch of agaves contrasts strikingly with the rest of the island, which I picture to contain no other vegetation. (The mist may bring a tiny amount of moisture to the summit, supporting limited plant life.) The plants, due to their singularity and location, become a powerful focal point for the entire island--drawing in and "controlling" the vastness of the landscape beyond.
The lechuguillas were photographed in Big Bend National Park, Texas, on a mountain peak covered with a lot of bare rock and gravel but also some scrubby forest that I felt detracted from the experience of reaching the top. The park is located in the Chihuahuan Desert--North America's largest desert--extending deep into Mexico from southern New Mexico and southwest Texas. (Death Valley sits on the boundary between the Mojave and Great Basin deserts.) While it lacks anything like the giant saguaros of the Sonoran Desert farther west, the Chihuahuan actually contains the continent's greatest diversity of cacti. Other types of succulents, including yuccas, agaves, and even a bromeliad (normally associated with tropical rainforest canopies) are also plentiful in the park. Below are photos of the Giant Dagger Yucca, Yucca carnerosana, some standing over three meters high.