Las Cruces artist brings community together with wildlife mosaics

El Paso News

EL PASO (Texas), KTSM — Wildlife artist Kathy Morrow walks the Tortugas Dam in Las Cruces every morning at dawn to work on her colorful rock mosaics.

She started the project almost three years ago, when her mother passed away. She would take walks on the dam every morning looking for peace in the nature.

One morning she noticed a row of rocks carefully placed on the side of the walking path.

She picked up a few white and yellow rocks and lined them up next to the ones that were already there.

“I wanted to see how long it would take for that person to add more rocks to their row,” said Morrow.

Not long after that, she saw even more rocks added to her row and that gave her an idea.

She gathered more colorful rocks and started creating small designs on the edge of the road, finding inspiration in animals and Southwest symbols.

With time, she started working on bigger projects, like a hummingbird and a cougar.

Now, she is working on her biggest project yet: a whipped tail lizard made out of 9,000 pounds of white marble.

Even though Morrow picks up each rock and carefully places it onto her design, she still has helpers that bring her rocks, tiles and bottles in bulk.

Her friend Eric Fuller loaded up his truck many times with a total of 20,000 pounds of marble meant for Kathy’s designs.

“I saw Kathy work on her butterfly and I said, ‘well, I can bring you some stuff,’” Fuller said, explaining how she met Morrow two years ago.

Morrow said people started noticing her work as they walked at the dam and they would come the next day to bring her rocks and other materials.

“So the larger pieces that you see now are a result of a community effort,” said Morrow. “A lot of people (are) bringing rocks and tiles and bottles and contributing to the artwork.”

She said that after a year of working on her mosaics, she finally met the two people who started the row of rocks on the side of the road that inspired her work. She said that they now bring her materials to help with her mosaics.

One of her most loyal helpers is her 11-year-old dog Bandit, who always walks by her side warning her of coyotes and snakes.

“He’s also my supervisor,” she said, laughing.

Kathy estimated she has another two to three months to finish her lizard, but she already has a new project in mind.

“When I’m working on a piece, a lot of times I’m looking over the land for where the next piece is going to go,” said Morrow, revealing that she’s already thinking about putting a quail between the cougar and the falcon.

She said it is touching the way the community responded to her work and she has one particular story that made her realize the significance of her art.

“There was a lady whose husband was very ill and they used to walk up here, but they couldn’t (anymore),” Morrow said. “So, she would photograph the art every day and the progress of it. She would then come home and showed him what I was doing, so he could take part in her walk through the pictures.”

She doesn’t plan on stopping with her project any time soon, or at least until she runs out of space.

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