When you wander into the Elyze Clifford Interpretive Center at the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve, you will see something new, vibrant and captivating on the walls: the art work of Nuri Amanatullah.
The prints are inspired by random, chance interactions the artist has had with wildlife in and around the Antelope Valley.
“I once saw a roadrunner in a Del Taco parking lot and it affected me profoundly,” Amanatullah said. “It was the first time I had seen a roadrunner in person and I was surprised how large it was. It was beautiful, almost regal. And then I thought, 'what is this regal bird doing scrounging for scraps at Del Taco?’ “
He has seen a grey fox digging through a trashcan at nearby Devil's Punchbowl, coyotes sulking down his street in Quartz Hill like stray dogs looking for food.
“Then I started thinking about these unique encounters and how the Antelope Valley is one of those special places where the desert wildlife persists in spite of our disrupting presence. I wanted to portray the flora and fauna of the Antelope Valley, bold and vibrant, but not isolated,” he explained. “Often with natural photography and other forms of artwork there is a concentrated effort to separate the traces of humans, to deliver this false notion of pristine, unmolested landscapes and wildlife. I wanted to do the opposite and show the intersections where humans and animals meet.”
Amanatullah has been drawing since an early age. He received a bachelor’s degree in art from University of California, Santa Cruz. He moved to the Antelope Valley in 2008 because his wife was from here. In addition to being an artist, he is the art director for the Housing Corporation of America, a nonprofit organization that provides enrichment programs including art, fitness, and scholarship to affordable-income housing across Southern California.
Since moving to the Antelope Valley, his art has focused on the animal and plant life of the desert area. He has become enamored with the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve, which he considers one of the best places to experience the beauty of the natural world.
He said that he hopes that people who see his work at the interpretive center will walk away with a sense of curiosity and an eagerness to learn more.
“I hope that it's the same feeling I got when I was a child looking at animal specimens and dinosaur bones at the natural history museum,” Amanatullah said. “I'd like to restore awe in nature since it's so close to us now. At any given time of day you can spot a hawk sitting on a telephone pole off of Sierra Highway. Or ravens on top of buildings. Or coyotes scampering across vacant lots.”
He noted that humans have encroached on these animals’ environments, and they’ve learned to adapt.
“We're neighbors whether we like it or not,” he said. “So I'd prefer that the relationship between the residents of the Antelope Valley, especially the youth, and the creatures here is one of respect and wonder.”
Or, even better, stop by the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve to enjoy it in person, and then, go out on the trails to experience some of that natural beauty yourself.