Death Valley Children’s Book Animates the Arroyos

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On April 3rd 2012, at Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley, artist Janet Morgan unveils her new book on the park, along with a month-long exhibition of paintings by Janet and her husband, Gregory Frux.

Morgan was already on the leading edge of landscape art in her role—shared with Greg—as an adventure artist. Together the two have traipsed Peru, Patagonia, Antarctica and remote California deserts in the style of early expedition artists. Now the three-time Death Valley artist-in-residence leads the way again in her children’s book  Welcome to Death Valley.

As two ravens, Ravenna and Ramón, explore the desert from on high, we learn about alluvial fans, virga (rain that doesn’t touch the ground) and Panamint daisies. But that is only the surface plot. Underneath the facts expected by parents and teachers is a landscape animated by a mystic’s consciousness. This is Agnes Pelton style transcendence disguised as a children’s book.

The raven duo tumbles in and out of Badwater Basin (“shiny blackness against the white salt”) and explores Telescope Peak. Meanwhile the mountains shift. The sky flares. Everything is in motion.

A belly dancer and former arts therapist who worked with cancer patients, Morgan has a feel for the forces just under the surface of the natural world. Ravenna and Ramón–and the reader by extension–become part of the swirling, exploding colorful desert. “It hums and rattles and caws,” Janet says of Death Valley. The same could be said of her book.

Along with the book launch, Janet Morgan and Greg Frux present paintings made over seven years of visits to the park, three times as artists-in-residence. Gregory Frux, too, delves deep into geology and natural forces in paintings informed by his close contact with the rock as a climber.

Golden Canyon by Gregory Frux

At the April 3rd opening, at 7 pm, the couple will present a slide show on their explorations as visiting artists. In addition to Welcome to Death Valley, a 48-page full-color catalogue of the exhibit will be available for $20. Death Valley: An Ongoing Exploration  includes essays by James McElhinney, artist, scholar and instructor at Pratt Institute and The Art Students League, and Rowland Russell PhD., environmental educator.

Here in California, we’ll keep looking east to Brooklyn (where Janet and Greg live) for the latest in desert art.

For more on Janet Morgan and Greg Frux see their website:

Or this article:

Welcome to Death Valley is available for $16.95 on the artists’ website:

1 comment for “Death Valley Children’s Book Animates the Arroyos

  1. This is an amazing book of artwork and natural geography education. The fantastic perspective of the ravens really captures the imagination. I bought an extra book for my nephew, who loves drawing. He was immediately inspired to draw things from different animals’ perspectives.

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