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  dry patch 
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Opuntia cacti, Guanica State Forest, Puerto Rico (my photo)

Opuntia cacti, Guanica State Forest, Puerto Rico (my photo)

Similar to the previous work, the cluster of giant Opuntia cacti in this composition is synonymous with the small wedge of raised land that bounds it and sets it apart. This "island" is slightly higher along the lefthand edge, which rises about two meters above the sand; the near edge borders a freshwater stream about twenty meters wide, and the far edge slopes down perhaps a meter to a narrow ribbon of beach (not visible here) along the ocean. 

I imagine this piece of earth to be far distant from any other dry land, not only isolated by ocean in the background but also by vast expanses of beach both off to the left and behind the stream in the foreground.  I picture this stream to reach the ocean just off the right edge of the canvas.  To the left, it enters the scene after flowing out of scrubby coastal forest and across perhaps two hundred meters of flat sand. 

The cacti (including the sea beyond) were photographed in Guanica State Forest on the dry southern half of Puerto Rico - the location of the Turks Head cacti incorporated into a few of the works discussed earlier.  That these cacti stood just a few meters away from the shore (in actuality a steep drop of maybe five meters) did give them some added prominence and distinction, but nevertheless they were just one of many interesting botanical attractions stretching down the coastline.  So, naturally I wished there had been some other physical feature to set them apart.    

Also, perhaps influenced by the strong wind and choppy sea on that particular day, I wanted to strengthen the sense of these plants as exposed and vulnerable to the elements.  As I tried to express in Refuges and Rise (particularly the latter, given that in both cases I find the succulents to embody the harshness of the environment), this air of vulnerability gives me a feeling of empowerment as if I were part of that overpowering force - or even in control of that too.  This feeling is the same as that created by the plants' physical isolation which, in addition to "compressing" the landscape into something easily experienced and understood, itself suggests vulnerability.  It is as if the earth were steadily eroding away beneath them.   

Darren