Deserts harbor mysteries, from lost civilizations to rarely seen creatures. They invite reverence, awe, and not a little fear. They spawn legends of ghosts, jackalopes, lost treasures. And, of course, they’re places where occupants of extraplanetary spacecraft are locked away in caves inside mountains and government laboratories, carefully hidden from view at sites such as Area 51 and Roswell.
Imagine that the pilot of one of those craft set it down in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, an alien in an alien landscape. Imagine further that our pilot—who is also artist and shaman—retreated to a quiet corner of an abandoned adobe out somewhere in the rocks and sand and, amazed, combined the most modern of graphic technologies with a found crow quill pen and India ink to record observations of the lifeforms and landscapes he (or she, or it) encountered along the way.
Codex Sonora is that record. It’s a fittingly mysterious book, made up of extraordinary portraits accompanied by eldritch, nearly indecipherable text, along with elusive graphs and symbols and strange diagrams that point outward to the stars. Timeless and enchanting, it’s the Sonoran Desert’s answer to the Voynich manuscript and the Codex Seraphinianus, both eccentric and enchanting.
Artist, illustrator, and designer Tom Baumgartner lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. His lifelong interest in nature’s patterns, systems, and creatures fuels his love for the Sonoran Desert and the creation of art based on it.
48 pages, full color