Desert Fables: Illustrations from The Neotenic Queen
September 1 – October 29
Baldwin Gallery at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
2021 N. Kinney Road
Tucson, AZ. 85743
Phone – (520) 883-2702
Link – https://www.desertmuseumarts.com/desert-fables-1
Desert Fables: Illustrations from The Neotenic Queen will open at the Baldwin Gallery at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on September 1st. The show will feature wildlife artist Rachel Ivanyi’s captivating illustrations from The Neotenic Queen: Tales of Sex and Survival in the Sonoran Desert, a collection of short stories on the animals and plants of the Sonoran Desert written by Alejandro Canelos. Both artist and author will be at the opening reception on September 1st from 4-6 pm. The exhibition will remain at the Baldwin Gallery located at 2021 N. Kinney Road through October 29, 2023.
Rachel Ivanyi is an award-winning contemporary nature artist, illustrator, and art educator. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of California, Davis, and a Graduate Certification in Natural Science Illustration from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Ivanyi’s natural history-style watercolor paintings portray dramatic scenes from Alejandro Canelos’s book, combining scientific accuracy and magical realism to capture the characters at pivotal moments in their journey. “Creating artwork for The Neotenic Queen allowed me to use both my imagination and scientific training to help bring each of Alejandro’s stories to life. It was great fun playing with styles, colors, and techniques depending on where each storyline took us. I’m excited for people to see the original full color artwork and learn a bit about our collaborative creative process,” said Rachel.
In an inhospitable environment, these creatures do whatever it takes to stay alive and procreate—they compromise, they cajole, they flirt, they use subterfuge, they fight to the death. Arizona Spotlight host Mark McLemore, in a June 2023 interview with Canelos on AZPM 89.1FM, said although he might describe the book as “… somewhat a work of science fiction, it’s not alien science fiction; it’s right here in our back yards.” The stories and illustrations blend science, fantasy, and a sense of humor, helping connect us to the environmental realities influencing the wildlife of the region. The book is available for sale at the Gallery.
At the show, Ivanyi’s paintings and their preliminary pencil sketches will be accompanied by story excerpts adding context and the author’s voice. Says Canelos, “It all started with a snake named Jake, who wanted a different point of view. I learned that rattlesnakes climb trees, regrow broken fangs, and form close familial bonds.” From these and other revelations, twenty-five stories emerged that blend biology and fantasy in equal measure. Born in Nogales and raised in Tucson, Alejandro Canelos majored in biology at Harvard. In 2020, he devoted himself to writing fiction, beginning with the book he had In his head. “Growing up in Tucson, chasing snakes and lizards and bugs, I took the extremes of the desert for granted. It wasn’t until I studied evolutionary biology that I really appreciated the everyday miracles of adaptation.” Canelos conferred with biologists from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the University of Arizona, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Since the 2022 publication of The Neotenic Queen, Canelos has published two more books: Hunters and Thieves, a collection of short genre stories; and Ten-minute Dramas, a book of 24 short plays. All three titles are available on Amazon and Apple Books and at a number of Tucson and Southwest retailers. Distribution of The Neotenic Queen is being handled by Tucson based Treasure Chest Books.
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