Fearsome 'saguarosaurus' poised in desert, set to strike

A saguaro that looks like a dinosaur (think Tyrannosaurus rex) is poised to ambush prey by Ridgeside Drive south of Sediment Drive.


Where can you find fish, sea otters, starfish or an octopus hanging from a saguaro cactus?

Probably nowhere but at Jacobs Park pool, where an 8-foot-tall cactus sculpture is covered in ceramic sea creatures swimming up and around the cactus, bringing together water and desert.

The fish-cactus stands tall in a cornered-off area next to the Jacobs Park pool, 1010 W. Lind St., surrounded by a few big rocks and Yucca plants.

A few years ago, Japanese artist Hirotsune Tashima came up with the idea of building a ceramic saguaro cactus as a home for the sea creatures found in the nearby Gulf of California to show his love for Tucson, he said.

Tashima grew up in Japan near the ocean in the city of Osaka, which is known for its humor, he said.

"Living in a place full of humor and jokes, I've always been interested in fun pieces, nothing too serious," Tashima said, "and this one is a fun sculpture."

Tashima was a foreign-exchange student in Baltimore in the late 1990s, and during his stay in the U.S. he rode his motorcycle to Arizona and saw the desert for the first time.

"I love the area here, and the nature is amazing," he said. "The desert landscape is just beautiful."

In 1999, he moved to Tucson and began teaching ceramics at Pima Community College. Since then he has been inspired by desert nature on a daily basis.

When he heard about the call to artists for this project, he wanted to create something that combined the desert he loved with the ocean where he grew up, Tashima said.

Once the project was approved by Pima County Parks and Recreation in 2004, he began creating the fish-cactus.

The ceramic sculpture was created in sections and took about three months to complete. He built up each metal ring from the base to form a cylindrical cactus form, and then he made the ceramic shell. The sea creatures were hand-built in clay and then added to the cactus. The fish-cactus was glazed many times to create a final rich coloring.

The final product has stingrays, sea turtles, a shark and a even a mini-sea lion all living on the fish-cactus, the artist said.

"Children really like them."

Contact reporter Fernanda Echavarri at fechavarri@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.