The Times-Independent

Meet Annie Dalton, 2024 Community Artist in the Parks

Moab-born artist will connect with visitors – and native plants

Annie Dalton has been an artist in the parks many times before — informally, at least.

Annie Dalton’s artwork seeks to educate viewers about native plants. She says that an important part of experiencing the land is knowing what you’re looking at — and what’s so special about it. Photo courtesy of NPS

When she was in her 20s, she was working on a series of large-scale sculptures representing the evolution of seashells. That’s when she discovered that eroding sandstone has a remarkably similar texture to the ripples on a shell. “I started sculpting in Arches,” she said.

Dalton will return to the parks next year as the 2024 Community Artist in the Parks. From April to October, she will create original work in the park for 24 hours a month and share her creative process with visitors. Her work will be sold in the Canyonlands Natural History Association stores at Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

She said her experiences sculpting in the parks led her to the program. “I want to make a bigger body of work in that area,” she said.

She will travel to Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments to make art during her tenure.

The program was created in 2009 to highlight the connections between a local artist and the parks’ landscapes.

Dalton is a mixed-media artist. “I never did find just one medium,” she said.

She runs two Moab-based businesses: Desert Edge Design, which focuses on her two-dimensional art endeavors, and Moab Varnish, her ceramics business.

Her work in the parks will focus on her two-dimensional art: mainly stickers, postcards and risograph prints of native plants and rocks.

The art has an educational component to it, she said. She often includes the Latin names of plants in her work. “It’s an important part of experiencing this land to know what it is you’re looking at, what’s so special about it,” she said.

“…I’m a total nerd when it comes to the plants,” she said.

Her art begins with a sketch, which she then translates into a carved stamp. With the different stamps, she creates compositions which are then digitized for printing.

In the parks, “I’m planning on having a sketchbook for the rocks and a sketchbook for the plants,” she said. “…I’m going to be hunting the blooms as they occur throughout the park.”

She plans to carry reference books with her so that she and park guests can identify the plants they see and hopes to collect stories about the plants as she moves through the parks.

Dalton was born in Moab, but moved away when she was about three years old. She grew up all around the Southwest. Each summer, she would return to stay with her grandmother for a month. “It was so magical every time,” she said.

Her mother was a potter. “I rebelled against the idea of doing functional pottery,” she said. Instead, she began making sculptures. “But then I hit my 20s, and I was like, ‘no, this is super rad.’”

Art was always a part of her life, but in college, she decided to pursue a career in medicine — as a plastic reconstructive trauma surgeon, to be exact.

She graduated from Arizona State University with degrees in fine art and biochemistry. But when she didn’t get into medical school, “it kind of gave me that permission to do what I wanted to do anyways.

“…You don’t just get to turn the artist thing on and off,” she said.