Archive for the Wanderings Category

Recent Work by PHOTOPIA

Posted in flora and fauna, National Parks, Soul Food, Southwestern US, Wanderings, wild creatures on April 16, 2016 by WanderArtist

For in the immediate world, everything is to be discerned… without either dissection into science, or digestion into art, but with the whole of consciousness, seeking to perceive it as it stands: so that the aspect of a street in sunlight can roar in the heart of itself as a symphony, perhaps as no symphony can: and all of consciousness is shifted… to the effort to perceive simply the cruel radiance of what is.

 James Agee

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

Ansel Adams

Beautiful Bighorn Canyon NRA

Posted in Art, Artist Residency, Drawing, flora and fauna, historic sites, Inspiring People, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, National Parks, Personal History, Soul Food, Wanderings, wild creatures, Woodblock Printing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2016 by WanderArtist

One awesome benefit of being awarded artist residencies in national parks is discovering and falling in love with new places! This recently happened to us at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana/Wyoming. We stayed at historic Ewing-Snell Ranch about twenty miles north of the Park Visitor Center in Lovell, WY. There are numerous visually and historically interesting structures at Bighorn, with Ewing-Snell being the one continually inhabited until most recently. Many of the ranch buildings have been lovingly restored over the last 30 years. Until this past autumn Ewing-Snell was the only one still used as a residence by the park service and it was provided to us as part of the artist residency. Sadly, the ranch burned to the ground on December 9, 2015. We feel very fortunate to have stayed at this wonderfully restored historic building, and we are extremely sad that it is gone.

With my parents, who were visiting from Lincoln, Nebraska, we had the amazing experience of watching the supermoon eclipse from the porch of Ewing-Snell Ranch. Since no street lights were visible in any direction we enjoyed a clear and open view of the moon as it put on an amazing show, rising heavenward over the vast expanse of park land. It is truly a memory we will cherish for the rest of our lives. In light of the burning to the ground of the ranch merely weeks later, we had only an inkling of how truly lucky we were to be there at that moment in time.

Ewing-Snell porch

Ewing-Snell porch

Over the course of our two week stay at Bighorn I worked on a woodblock print representing one perspective of the park. It was not an easy place to narrow down to merely one image simple enough for a woodblock print… So many interesting cabins, canyons, horses, bighorn sheep, mountains and vast panoramic vistas! We visited all of the historic ranches, and saw many of the wild horses that live in the canyon and the Pryor Mountains that flank the western edge of the park… we wandered up into the Bighorn Mountains on the eastern edge of the park where we witnessed the ranchers herding their livestock down the mountain from summer grazing on Forest Service lands. We also had the humbling experience of spending several hours transfixed by the amazingly tangible energy at an ancient power spot called Medicine Wheel. Bighorn Canyon and its surrounding area is a very magical and humbling place. Stay tuned for a future posting about this amazing place.

Lockhart Ranch and its owner, Caroline Lockhart, held my attention early in our visit. Lockhart was probably the talk of the town (small as it was) when she bought land and began ranching in the Dryhead region (now part of Bighorn Canyon NRA). One of the quotes from this city slicker and author/newspaper owner about living there was “My job is writing books and the last thing I had in mind when I came to the Dryhead was filing on land or engaging in the cattle business, and certainly not locating in a country where a fresh track in the main-travelled road is an event.” Though likely scandalous to some she never married, and she surely enjoyed being the person in charge – of her ranch and of her own destiny.

Lockhart apparently never planned to own a ranch but bought L/♥ (her brand) in 1926 when the owner defaulted on a loan she had made to him. The ranch was then just 160 acres but she expanded it to over 6,000 by 1952 when she finally decided to make Cody, Wyoming her permanent home. She raised cattle, kept a lover at times, wrote books and made an excellent living on the ranch. Truly an inspiration for the liberated woman!

As part of my Find Your Park Through Art weekend at Bighorn Canyon a handful of artists joined together to offer workshops and to hike, paint, photograph and draw together in some of the interesting sites in the park. I met some lifelong friends while working together to create a fun and informative weekend for participants. Painter Stephanie Rose led a workshop at Ewing-Snell on plein air painting, and Photographer Marilyn Feather led a sunrise trip to photograph the canyon with other participants. Both were full of energy, freely dispensing tips and sharing knowledge of their subjects, and were truly a pleasure to work with. Marilyn even shared Ewing-Snell with us for about four nights, dodging the local black bear and enjoying the comforts of a wonderfully remote home base.

I led a group into Hillsboro Ranch to draw, photograph and paint on the final morning of the Find Your Park Through Art weekend. Although my Bighorn woodblock print depicts a building at Lockhart Ranch, Hillsboro wound up being a favorite place, mainly for the variety of interesting structures, but also because of the stories of mountain lions seen in the canyon. When our group arrived at the ranch we soon discovered a domestic cat that had somehow made its way to this remote spot and was very happy for our attention. When we left Hillsboro that day one of the group members, realizing that the kitty could easily end up as a cougar snack, decided to adopt her and a few of us happily took turns carrying her out to the trailhead. We were all relieved to get her away from the wild creatures! Blackpaw now leads a happy life with as much food and love as any cat could hope for!

After our day at Hillsboro we returned to Ewing-Snell where I did a demonstration of woodblock printing for an inquisitive group. As I said, we fell in love with Bighorn Canyon and the surrounding mountains, and we hope to return and explore for a longer time in the future. I only regret that we will not be able to stay at Ewing-Snell Ranch again. This blog post is dedicated to the park staff who spent many hours lovingly restoring all of the buildings at Bighorn. We all appreciate your efforts and expertise, and we too were very sad to learn of the demise of this special historic gem.

Impressions of Bighorn Canyon NRA

Posted in Artist Residency, Drawing, historic sites, National Parks, Personal History, Soul Food, Wanderings, Woodblock Printing with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2015 by WanderArtist

A few visuals from our time at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area!

Layout Creek Avian Escort

Posted in Artist Residency, flora and fauna, Living Simply, National Parks, Personal History, Soul Food, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , on October 3, 2015 by WanderArtist

A 46 second video of a recent hike… listen for the bird and see if you can tell what it is! He was mostly grey, with light circles around the eyes, some striping on the wings and tail, a lighter underside… about 6 inches tall.

Enjoy!


Find Your Park Through Art !!

Posted in Art, Artist Residency, Drawing, flora and fauna, historic sites, Ideas, National Parks, Personal History, Wanderings, Woodblock Printing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2015 by WanderArtist

Find your park through art poster

Find Your Park Through Art

Posted in Art, Artist Residency, Drawing, historic sites, Ideas, National Parks, Personal History, Soul Food, Wanderings, Woodblock Printing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2015 by WanderArtist

I am a printmaker, environmental sculptor, exhibit designer, writer, photographer, graphic designer and museum professional. I just completed an eight year tenure as Director/Curator of an exceptional museum in northern New York founded by Alice T. Miner in 1924. These days I travel – drawing, photographing, running, biking and hiking in some of the most inspiring places in the country, and I am currently creating a series of woodblock prints celebrating our national parks as part of my Find Your Park Through Art campaign.

For many years I have made a living as a graphic designer and freelance illustrator. Although I once owned my own gallery and studio, and may again in the future, for now I have chosen to prioritize working with people through teaching, creating art, and studying/re-creating my current surroundings in favor of pursuing my art in the more traditional sense of creating pieces for sale in the “art world”. I believe this direction will bring me closer to the essence of the creative process. Mine has become a literal and figurative journey, exciting and fulfilling through it’s components of travel and direct connection to the things in this world that inspire me, and with the by-product of confirming that gallery shows and exhibits needn’t necessarily be the primary means to define an artist’s work. For the near future, as our national parks commemorate their 100 year anniversary, my theme has become Find Your Park Through Art. To help draw attention to the Find Your Park initiative I will be creating artwork in numerous national parks. Through Artist-in-Residence programs, I hope to partner with other artists to help emphasize this theme by holding public events at which we will draw, paint, photograph and create artwork in the parks themselves.

drawing Tapestry Arch at Arches National Park

drawing Tapestry Arch at Arches National Park

Throughout my life I have cherished our national parks. From long trips as a child traveling with my family in a VW bus to my current open-ended journey, I have wandered the parks – committing them to memory and re-creating them on paper. When I am able to take the time to more fully comprehend each place and the significance of its past-present-and future, I then begin to interpret many of its gems in my artwork. Indeed much of this new awareness occurs through the very creative process itself. As an artist I hope to “translate” park resources into images that enhance others’ enjoyment and deepen their understanding of public lands, and in the process perhaps even stimulate more interactive and protective practices among the millions of visitors to our fantastic natural and historical wonders.

mule skull with moqui marbles

“It’s just flashes that we own, little snapshots made of breath and of bone… And out on the darkling plain alone, they light up the sky”…

During residencies in the national parks I make sketches in preparation for creating woodblock prints, interacting with visitors as I work. My public presentations include demonstrating the printing of a woodblock, or visually explaining the process of creating woodblock prints through lectures/multimedia presentations. I also hope to have others join me for a day of Find Your Park Through Art – during these events we will draw, photograph, create environmental sculpture and/or paint in the park together. A large component of this time will be offering tips and tricks, helping younger artists, and sharing different facets of our love of the park, and of art in general. Later we will gather again to share and discuss what we have created and explore how public lands can inform and inspire our art. I make my living as an artist while maintaining a more humanistic approach to my public. Teaching art and inspiring others has long been a goal and a passion for me. My primary inspiration is to live within the art itself, and to help others do the same.

The opportunity to pass time with my sole occupation as artist-in-residence has been an invaluable experience and inspiration for my art – it allows me long stretches of time within the parks to work on creating drawings, environmental sculptures and prints. Deadlines also push me to focus more fully on my surroundings and on drawing and printmaking. I hope to learn the flora and fauna of many of our national parks, and by slowing my pace and observing the daily and weekly changes from the broad scope of the landscape to the tiny details of things, I will find what most inspires me and create drawings from those ‘snapshots’ in my mind and in my camera.

preparing the ink palette

preparing the ink palette

rolling ink onto the block with the resulting edition of prints

For many years I have worked to interpret a museum collection for visitors of all ages and backgrounds – always managing to find common ground from which to foster enthusiasm and closer examination/interest in what they are seeing and learning. My experience and love of interpretation lend themselves well to being an artist-in-residence – I am able to connect and converse with whomever I meet as I draw or create prints in the parks.

Art can open people’s eyes to new and exciting perspectives on the places they visit. It is my hope that artwork, created during residencies, will act as a two-dimensional ambassador for the parks and waterways I interpret. There is power in the connection artwork can help to create between visitors and nature – and this further connection will be a boon to any park or open space. Through art I believe we can reach whole segments of the population of visitors who may not connect as intrinsically to their surroundings and who may find their own niche through combining art and time out-of-doors. Take the teenaged boy who has his nose buried in a video game… I guarantee he will look up to see what I am working on – he will look around – he will take it to heart. There is something magical to young people when they see someone working on art in a public setting… It spurs their imagination! That experience in turn allows them to observe their surroundings on a deeper level to discern what might be so special… And it makes them wonder if this could be part of their future.

wake robin

columbine

My Find Your Park Through Art campaign will be repeated at other national parks and I will spread the word through my public presentations and posts to my blog wanderartist.com. I have already helped to inspire others to take up this campaign and will be presenting a weekend with two other artists at Bighorn Canyon in the autumn with the title ‘Find Your Park Through Art’. We will work in the park together for two days with other artists from the public who choose to join us. It is my hope that this idea will catch on and will help others to embrace the Find Your Park campaign and to visit their national parks. Upon completion of each park residency I will donate one print to each park – offering them each a unique artist’s view of the park and it’s resources.

image donated to Homestead National Monument

My residencies have included:

Homestead National Monument of America (spring 2015)

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (autumn 2015)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (spring 2016)

The Ancient Art of Horseshoe Canyon

Posted in American Indian, historic sites, National Parks, petroglyphs, pictographs, Soul Food, Southwestern US, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2015 by WanderArtist

Canyonlands National Park in Utah is an amazing destination for people who enjoy solitude, desert environments, hiking, camping, mountain biking, archeology and more. The park is composed of four distinct zones – Island in the Sky, the Maze, the Needles, and the series of rivers that divide these districts – including the Colorado River. It is a huge expanse of land – 527 square miles – and it simply cannot be covered in one day, in one week, or even in one month.  Canyonlands gets an average of 440,000 visitors each year, yet many of the people who pass through the park never see what I consider to be one the most fascinating and inspiring places in the entire world. It’s a site called the Great Gallery, located deep in the very remote Horseshoe Canyon, that I had dreamed of seeing for a long time before first taking the opportunity to visit some 20 years ago. This isolated canyon can be found in the Maze District and receives only about 3% of the parks annual visitors. It’s a great place to “get away from it all.” In fact, Wikipedia calls it “one of the most remote and inaccessible areas of the United States”.

Visiting the Great Gallery takes determination and time. It’s not really close to anywhere! Moab, Utah, the nearest town of significant size, is about 3 hours away. After nearly 2 hours of paved road, the final leg of the trip begins on a very rough dirt road dotted with steep dips and potholes the size of a small car! The “graded” dirt road is 30 miles long, and if you take it late in the season (i.e. months after the last time it was graded) you might think it’s not maintained at all. The washboard surface will rattle one’s teeth! It can be navigated in a car – carefully, slowly… but a high clearance vehicle is better. If you’re patient enough, and don’t mind risking a broken axle, you might even drive in pulling your Airstream trailer (more on this later).

Click any image for a larger view & caption… then click on the ‘x’ (upper left) to return to blog, if there is no ‘x’ then click the ‘back’ button on your browser

As I mentioned, the first time I visited Horseshoe Canyon was 20 years ago. We drove in with a large group, camped on the canyon rim, and hiked down to the Great Gallery the next morning. The descent down into the canyon is 780 vertical feet, following along old mineral exploration roads over slick rock and sandy trails, which provide very little shade. The Great Gallery itself is a 3.5 mile hike from the canyon rim, meandering upstream along the wash. The hike is challenging in that most of the way along the canyon floor one is walking in soft sand, which can sap one’s energy after only a few miles. Upon returning down the canyon from the rock art sites you have to then scale up that 780 foot canyon wall! It is certainly a long day but well worth the effort and exhaustion.

a cairn along the trail

During that first visit I finally arrived at the Great Gallery very excited to see rock art I had studied in school years before but, until that time, had only seen photos of… When I arrived at the site I was shocked to discover that, by chance, I happened to know the steward who was on duty down in the remote canyon!  The ranger, Craig Root, owned a ski school where I had worked the winter before my visit. Needless to say, after greeting him and discussing at length the gallery of amazing work, we invited him to join us for dinner at the canyon rim later that night. His was a lonely post and I think he enjoyed our company and antics that evening.

Craig below a portion of the Great Gallery in the 1990s

In the autumn of 2014 we visited this ancient site again. We arrived at the canyon rim before sunset, prepared our gear for the hike, had some dinner and tried to get some rest before our long next day. We felt a tad lonely as we sat in the deep silence with just a few birds (one of which was the relatively rare Loggerhead Shrike) and a couple of parked vehicles, one of which, to our great surprise, was a relatively new medium-sized Airstream trailer! It belonged to the volunteer currently stationed at the Great Gallery, and it was his last day there – the busiest part of the season had drawn to a close. We spoke to him for a short time when he came back out of the canyon that evening. He said when he had driven in a few weeks earlier he had tried various methods to minimize the teeth rattling, including driving really fast over the washboard parts of the road … but that hadn’t worked! So he finally slowed his pace and took his time. I would have loved to have seen him hauling his rig along the 30 miles of challenging road back out to the paved road the next day but we had already begun hiking toward the Great Gallery when he left.

a loggerhead shrike guarding the trailhead

This two minute video shows part of the trail down the canyon wall. The clip begins about 30-40 minutes after we began our hike at the canyon rim. It shows the gate that prevents livestock (and motorized vehicles) from wandering into the canyon, and the first full view down into the wash. The trail we followed toward the rock art is shown heading down the wash to the right. The trail you see across the canyon floor  leads down from the other side and another part of the Maze District.

Autumn color had begun appearing in the cottonwoods and other deciduous trees in the canyon, and the hike into the wash was dry and relatively easy going (at least on the way in… it would feel far more difficult to our tired bodies on the way back to our campsite that evening). Stopping frequently to explore and take photos, we saw a few handfuls of people later in the morning as they caught up with us on the trail.

Though the Great Gallery, which is about 300 feet long and consists of an estimated 80 figures, is really the visual “plum” of this trip, there are other smaller groups of petroglyphs and pictographs along the way that are well worth experiencing and photographing.

The petroglyphs and pictographs in Horseshoe Canyon are done mostly in the Barrier Canyon Style, dating from approximately 2,000 BC to 800 AD, during what is called the Archaic Period. (These dates I include merely to suggest how very long this has been a significant place to humans… the timespan is theoretical and this site could be significantly older, or younger.) There is newer artwork done by other groups who passed through as recently as 1300 AD. Some artifacts found in the area, however, date as far back as 9,000-7,000 BC! The canyon was basically abandoned by Indians by 1300. These amazing petroglyphs and pictographs have been well preserved and protected by the sheer remote inaccessibility of the canyon… and more recently by the National Park Service. Volunteers are stationed in the canyon during the busy season from spring through autumn. They hike down the wash each day, answer questions, direct visitors to leaflets with information stored in boxes (along with binoculars to enable viewers to get a close-up view without having to closely approach the panels).

This site captivated me so when I studied it in college because of mysterious appearance and sheer size of many of the figures. The paintings indicate to many who have studied them that these people were not only trying to convey a message, but also probably simply enjoyed the medium of painting. The images are often human-sized or larger, often armless, with interesting and varied designs comprising the body of the figure. There are much smaller, more recent additions done by Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan people that are lyrical, life-like and beautiful. I was deeply interested in symbols and American Indian art and this site represented an exciting adventure that only served to enhance the general intrigue.

Theories about the meaning of the figures and the reasons these early people would take the time to create so many panels in the Barrier Canyon Style abound. Were they recording some important event in their history? Creating visual prayers to ensure the survival of their people? We’ll never know for sure… I am less interested in theorizing on a meaning I can never fully verify than I am in merely standing in awe of their legacy, embracing the very mysteries, and sharing the images and impressions with friends. It is important for me to know that these places exist, and that others have made it their life work to help preserve them.

After a long, tiring, and exciting day exploring Horseshoe Canyon we joked that every sound outside our van that evening was the Archaic People coming for a visit. The stars were awe-inspiring and any other human habitation seemed so far away. A few people pulled in to the parking area after dark and camped in preparation for their canyon experience the next day. We vowed to return to this magical place while our bodies would still carry us. Here are links to some more interesting reading about the archeology of Horseshoe Canyon… and another informative article about the Barrier Canyon Style.

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