This is the latest installment of El Mirador, an ongoing series curated by Francisco Cantú. Spanish for “the lookout point,” El Mirador collects original nonfiction, translation, and visual art on the American West, the US/Mexico borderlands, and Indian Country.
Tucson, Arizona-based artist Danny Martin is known regionally for large-format Dia de los Muertos inspired murals and mixed media projects, as well as architectural illustrations that capture bygone eras of building design in the American West.
Martin is currently developing an art book that focuses on the unique plant life of the Sonoran Desert, to be titled “Arizona Cactus.” The following selection of illustrations represent Martin’s renderings of Arizona’s most iconic cactus, the saguaro.
“My best days start with a hike up Tumamoc Hill,” Martin says. Tumamoc is a small mountain rising approximately 730 feet from the desert floor, west of downtown Tucson. Its name is an anglicized transliteration of the Tohono O’odham word cemamagĭ, meaning “horned lizard.” Since 1903 it has been the home of the Desert Botanical Laboratory, a research center now run by the University of Arizona and regarded as “the birthplace of restoration ecology.” The hill is also a favorite hiking spot for local Tucsonans of all ages and backgrounds. “The top of Tumamoc is my favorite spot in Tucson,” says Martin, “especially the view from the old observatory at the end of the trail.” Sketching the plant life along this trail is what led Martin to conceive of the idea for “Arizona Cactus.” The saguaros depicted above can all be found growing on the slopes of Tumamoc.