After moving to the Mojave desert in 2016, I started hiking alone in the wilderness. As I scrambled over rocks and through sandy washes I noticed that I would regularly find animal and plant remains. This desert detritus fascinates me. Desiccated and sun-bleached plants, Joshua tree stumps, bighorn tracks, dried coyote poop, and especially bones. These bones of desert animals are the most beautiful and delicate of artifacts - they tell us stories of life and death.


Because I usually hike in conservation areas, I do not remove the bones I find. Instead, I map their location, and photograph them to have a visual reference for sketches and paintings, and then paint them on recycled plywood. As I paint the skulls that I find on my desert hikes, both the skulls and the wood find new life. It is a way for me to collect the skulls, the spirit of fellow desert dwellers, without disturbing their remains. They are totems watching over me and they live on in the stories they tell us.

Jillian Sandell:  jilliansandell[at]  •  IG: @morethanadequate

Douglas Blanc:  zendoug[at]  •  IG:  @zendoug1969