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36 • MAY 2019

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ditor’s Note: In honor of World Turtle Day on May 23, Desert Exposure put out a call to artists for turtle artwork. The response was overwhelming. More than 40 turtle images flowed into the Desert Exposure inbox over the space of a couple of months. I want to thank each and every artist who participated in this submission. We got such an amazing and lively selection of pieces. Not only did paintings appear but also jewelry, sculpture, gourds, a drum and even stories. American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, is “shellebrating” its 19th annual World Turtle Day on May 23, and Desert Exposure is joining in the shellebrations. Visit www.worldturtleday. org for information. ATR created and launched World Turtle Day to increase respect for and knowledge of one of the world’s oldest creatures. Now observed around the globe, turtle and tortoise lovers are taking “shellfies” and holding shellebrations in the U.S., Canada, Pakistan, Borneo, India, Australia, the United Kingdom, Greece and many other countries. These gentle animals survived 200 million years but now biologists and other experts predict the disappearance of turtles and tortoises in the wild within the next 50 years.

Zilla by Flo Hosa Dougherty Zilla, who is all the turtles in this triptych, lives at the Las Cruces Museum of Nature & Science. Artist Dougherty spent many hours at the museum to get all his angles. Donated to the museum in 2009 by a patron, he is currently 22 years old. One of the most popular attractions there, Zilla is interactive with small children (on the other side of the glass). He is a

4 common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine) and was the turtle of the month at the museum in February. As the name implies, when threatened, these turtles will snap their powerful beak-like jaws. Unlike many other turtles, they cannot pull themselves into their shells as a defense mechanism. In captivity these turtles can live up to 100 years. In the wild these turtles prefer shallow ponds and streams. 

Aak by Randy Catron Turtle is the symbol of the Earth. The Americas are referred to as Turtle Island.  In Mayan belief, First Father emerged from the carapace of a turtle and “aak” is the transliteration of the word “turtle” from Mayan into English. The symbol is a Meso-American medicine wheel. White is for North. Yellow is for East. Red is for South. And black is for West. These colors vary a little from North American medicine wheels. Blue is for Sky and Green is for Earth. Turtle is also the symbol for time. Time is sacred to the Maya. Turtle’s right front leg points to the rising sun of the summer solstice. Turtle’s left front leg points to the setting sun of the summer solstice. Turtle’s right rear leg points to the rising sun of the winter solstice. Turtle’s left rear leg points to the setting sun of the winter solstice.

Pond turtles by Paul Vakselis This process gave me a deeper understanding of turtles. They have been around for eons.  They exist ubiquitously worldwide.  They are endangered. They add to the eco-system and

represent various colorful and not so colored versions worldwide. In the USA southwestern region we have only once variety which are not all that colorful and are quite small. They are often called “pond” turtles and scientifically are named western painted turtle - Chrysemys picta bellii.  Other turtles can be massive and live for many years. They breathe air above ground, and underwater. They can hibernate under water for long periods of time. They both eat with their mouths, but also urinate and excrete waste through the same orifice.  There is a rich history, ancestry and usefulness of turtles and they offer everyone no matter their age, something to explore, learn and appreciate.

Western Box Turtle by Jackie Blurton Here’s a pen and ink Western Box Turtle. I saw him trucking through the desert at a very quick and determined turtle pace. He obviously had a schedule to keep and destination in mind. I took his picture and did this drawing of him. I have a book on Zuni Fetishes that give the Turtle the attributes of being grounded and goal oriented. They precede to their destinations without hesitation or distraction. So, if you want to achieve a goal, ask Turtle for assistance.

Turtle Man by Larry Felhauer The piece is roughly 3 feet tall of steel and ceramics. The turtle motif is highlighted in the chest piece with the four turtles pointing to the four compass points.  The theme carries through in the design on the boots as well as the turtle shell and feather rattle in his hand. 

1 Bosque del Apache resident by Brigit Davidson, 2 "Aak" by Randy Catron, 3-4 "Friends" by Marleigh Davis, 5 Man by Larry Felhauer, 6 Western "Box Turtle" by Jackie Blurton, 7 Pond turtles by Paul Vakselis, 8 Gourd tur Sylvia Henderson, 9 "Box Turtle Sphere" by James S. Kane, 10 "Tortuga Amarillo" by Mariah Walker, 11 "Happy Turtle Day" by Hallie Keller, 12 Turtle by Marj Leininger, 13-15 "Zilla" by Flo Hosa Dou

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