Posts Tagged ‘San Raphael Swell’

Into the Wild Unknown Country

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

I remember watching the Ten Commandments as a little kid. I was maybe four or five years old. Two scenes stuck out for me. One was of the slaves treading mud and straw into bricks. I went into the field across from our house and dug a hole in the ground and poured water into it. After picking dried grass and putting it with the mud that was forming I took off my shoes and tried to tread the materials into brick mud. I don’t think I ever made anything more of it. I was excited about the possibility of forming earth into something useful. A few years later while playing with matches I burned the same field down and got in some hot water over it. Now I employ those early fascinations in making my living. Wet clay and fire are very elemental, sensual if you will. I can’t leave them alone.
The other scene that stayed in my mind’s eye was of Moses leaving Egypt to wander in the desert wilderness after he killed an Egyptian who was abusing one of the Hebrews he was identifying himself with. The image of this forty something man wandering through that landscape has stayed with me.
Friday I rose up early and went with friends into the deserts east of where I live. We went for beauty. It is physically satisfying to walk in the desert, again sensual if you will. The visuals are intoxicating in their richness and starkness. I believe as an artist that it is important to continually expose myself to beauty. It sharpens your ability to see beauty as it takes shape in the clay I am working. Hands in clay, feet in desert soil and on slick rock are parallel pleasures.
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Cane Wash in the San Rafael Swell of East Central Utah. It was a bright and relatively warm January day. The light gets best in the late afternoon when it is being reflected around these canyons. I love what water does in the desert even when it is hard. This area is only a two hour drive from my home. It is my back yard. God was having a good day when this happened.
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The San Raphael River runs from the mountains of the Wasatch Plateau (my Horseshoe Mountain is on the western edge of that area.) across the San Raphael Swell into the Dirty Devil River and canyons of the Colorado. Later this spring I’ll float those waters as they carve through the Grand Canyon.
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A long time ago, some say several thousand years, people who lived in these desert canyons took time from hunting and gathering to make art as we call it. These paintings in Horseshoe canyon in Canyonlands National Park are some of the best in North America. These figures are 8-10 feet tall. There are 61 human like figures in this panel. The figures are pocked with little chip marks. I suspect that they were ritually killed with rocks or stone tipped projectiles. I could be wrong. Most people think these are gods. I don’t know. They are amazing images.
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As I looked at these I heard Philip Glass’s theme from the Godfrey Reggio film “Koyaanisqatsi” and thought about Hopi prophecies.
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Eat your heart out Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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It doesn’t take a sleuth to figure out what is going on here. Bison and elk make for tasty groceries.