Theodore Payne Gallery

Upcoming Exhibition

Margaret Gallagher – Ironwood and Gravel Ghost | Opening January, 2023


On view in the gallery

Artist Margaret Gallagher presents Ironwood and Gravel Ghost, a series of ink-and-watercolor works celebrating southern California’s desert ecosystems, from the wash woodlands of the Sonoran Desert to the banks of the Amargosa River in the Mojave. Under daunting vistas of wide-open skies and distant, jagged mountains, these works invite the viewer into a more intimate scale: the interactions between plants, animals, insects, and landscape that form the interweaving structure of an ecosystem.

This series grew out of a season the artist spent working as a vegetation technician throughout the BLM’s California Desert District in the spring and summer of 2022. The drawings in the series are detailed and scientifically accurate, influenced by scientific and botanical illustration traditions. Yet they contain an atmosphere of magic, born of the artist’s delight at encountering beings exquisitely adapted to thrive in the desert’s challenging physical conditions. The intimate scale of the scenes invites the viewer to imagine themselves within, as a humble yet engaged witness to vital natural processes: on their knees examining a wildflower or quietly watching a bat swoop at twilight.

This series portrays the Mojave, Sonoran, and Great Basin Deserts, which are also the lands of the Cahuilla, Serrano, Chemehuevi, Mojave, Kumeyaay, and Western Shoshone Indigenous communities.


About the artist

Margaret Gallagher is an artist and naturalist based in Los Angeles. Her detailed ink-and-watercolor illustrations highlight the beauty of California’s ecosystems. Long, quiet walks in LA’s often-overlooked wild spaces inspire her drawings, which depict the subtle worlds of plants, animals, fungi, and invertebrates that teem around us. Margaret was raised in rural Oregon, surrounded by gardens, fields, forests, and rivers. She studied art at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She works seasonally as a field botanist and volunteers with local conservation organizations such as the California Native Plant Society and Audubon.

To view more of Margaret’s work, you can visit