10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s Ironwood Gallery is proud to present NICHE: The Two Worlds of Guy Combes. The first ever major solo show for Kenyan born, Tucson-based wildlife artist Guy Combes, NICHE will juxtapose the flora, fauna, and inspiration of the two places the artist knows best, East Africa’s Central Rift Valley, and the Sonoran Desert. Comprising over 50 original oil paintings, this exhibition will explore the intricate tapestry of the natural world, particularly the relationship between environmental conditions and the survival strategies that plants and animals alike evolve over time, all viewed through the unique perspective of one of the world’s most highly regarded wildlife artists.
When Guy Combes first came to the Sonoran Desert, it felt like he was coming home. As a Kenyan native, Combes is connected to Africa on a deeply spiritual level, and did not expect to feel so readily at home in the Sonoran Desert. The familiarity he felt with the mountains and deserts of the Southwest went beyond the obvious similarities between the landscape, flora and fauna of his old and new homes; it was a feeling, an attitude, perhaps stemming from the deep commitment anyone, human or otherwise, must have to make their living in a world so harsh, alien, and unforgiving, however beautiful.
The Old World and New World are undeniably linked in these distant locations, and the idea of a grand design became more apparent to Combes as he delved into the subject matter for Niche. Where Kenya has Giant Euphorbia forests, the Sonoran Desert has Giant Saguaros as far as the eye can see. Guy grew up with Sunbirds sipping nectar from flowers in Kenya, but encountered a profusion of Hummingbirds here. And while leopards stalk the African Savannah for prey, Jaguars (once plentiful) are showing the first signs of a comeback in the American Southwest. Even some of the challenges for wildlife and habitat conservation, with which Combes is actively involved as the US Development Director for Soysambu Conservancy, a 48,000 Acre ranch in Kenya, are strikingly similar between Africa and the Sonoran Desert.
Whether related by convergent, parallel or divergent evolution, the plants and animals of East African and the Sonoran Desert have evolved remarkable similarities, some morphological, others behavioral, all because of the dictates of their environments. Nature abhors a vacuum, leaving no ecological niche unfilled by some living organism specifically and spectacularly designed to fulfill that role, and even on completely different sides of the planet, Nature has found remarkably similar solutions to similar challenges. Whatever your beliefs are about evolution, this collection of artwork will draw your attention to the wondrous subtleties of change over time, and open a window to one of the most awe-inspiring aspects of our natural history. No less significant, it will tell the very personal story of one artist’s relationship with two spectacular landscapes and his continuing quest to observe, understand and share his passion for the natural world through art.