BLOG: To Become Visible

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  • The Sinking Earth

    “Dudley Patterson is known to be wise. So … I put the question to him: ‘What is wisdom?’ Dudley greets my query with a faintly startled look that recedes into a quizzical expression I have not seen before. ‘It’s in these places,’ he says.  ‘Wisdom sits in places.' "
    -Keith H. Basso. Dudley Patterson is an Apache horseman of Cibecue, Arizona. In: Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache. University of New Mexico Press. 1996.

    Block cave mining thousands of feet below the surface will result in a cracking and sinking earth in the Oak Flat region of Arizona. A crater two miles wide and up to 1000 feet deep will result.

    Federal land given in December for the world's largest copper mine, a joint venture Rio Tonto and BHP-Billiton, will block access to and eventually damage and destroy many petroglyphs, Hohokam sites, the best documented Apache archaeological sites and many sacred places.

    The land in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest, signed into law as a rider in December 2014, sidestepped environmental impact assessment. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) slipped the transfer into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the must-pass military spending bill.  

    Five minute video overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAptwpX-03E

    Clear explanation of the industrial mining process: http://www.azminingreform.org/sites/default/files/docs/Impacts%20of%20Block%20Cave%20Mining.pdf

    Current politics:  http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/02/04/yavapai-apache-chairman-oak-flat-holy-sites-are-central-apache-spiritual-beliefs-159016

    The archaeology: http://www.archaeologicalconservancy.org/planned-arizona-copper-mine-put-hole-apache-archaeology/

    facebook page: Saving OAK FLAT Campground

  • The Necessity within the Circle

    There is a difference of feeling between saying "the circle is a scientific or philosophical idea" and saying, "the circle is an archetypal idea." Archetypal adds the further implication of basic root structure, generally human, a necessary universal with consequents. The circle is not just any scientific idea; it is basic, necessary universal. Archetypal gives this kind of value.  James Hillman [1]

    We arrive to circles with a point of view.  A tension arises. Circle scribing universal form. Circle embodying a particular meaning for the people of a specific time and place.

    The value Hillman alludes to arises not from interpreting. Instead, holding close to the image. This allowing is to enter the circle. We may intuit a commonality emerging from the shared heritage of our human minds. Beyond that, as he says: “An archetypal quality emerges through (a) precise portrayal of the image; (b) sticking to the image while hearing it metaphorically; (c) discovering the necessity within the image; (d) experiencing the unfathomable analogical richness of the image.” [1]
    [1] James Hillman, “Inquiry into Image,” Spring, 1977, p 82.  (As cited in A Blue Fire, edited by Thomas Moore, 1989. 26-27.)

    Album: Petroglyph Circles
    Below, "Necessity within the Circle"  Hart-Warner Uplands, Lake County

  • So many words! So few millennia!

    In the next four months groups at three gatherings will present research and discuss rock art.  So many vistas! So many words! So few millennia!

    The Northwest Anthropological Conference NWAC 2015, March 26-28 in Eugene, includes a symposium devoted to Rock Art & Rock Features Research in the Northwest.  My research presentation: Petroglyph boulders on the Rogue River at Two Mile Creek: Intentions and Actions, 1974-2015. Image below: Detail from displaced boulder, now in Agness.  Photos of Selected Boulders

    The Society for American Archaeology’s Annual Meeting, San Francisco, April 15-19, includes a rock art via a forum, two symposia, and a general session, involving over 70 individuals.   SAA 2015 Annual Meeting  
    - Caring for Knowledge on Stone: Rock Art Co-Management with Indigenous and Local Communities
    - Rock Art Research: A Regional Analysis
    - Methodology and Interpretation in the Archaeology of Rock Art
    - Global Studies in Rock Art Analysis and Interpretation

    The American Rock Art Research Association’s annual conference, May 22-25, is in Laughlin, Nevada, on the Colorado River. Deadline for submissions is March 1. (I intend to discuss the implications of a rediscovered petroglyph boulder from the Columbia River.)  ARARA 2015 Conference

  • Of Slicks and Glyphs

    One’s experience deepens when encountering bedrock boulders with grinding slicks and attendant petroglyphs. The dimensional surfaces of the in-place stones reflect material processes of habitation. Which came first, how and why, is not as important as recognizing these as layered markers of peoples living in and moving through this landscape.

    Photos: Slicks and Glyphs

  • Dark Shape Swimming

    Dark Shape Swimming

    A Stone Age painting
    on a Sahara boulder:
    a shadowy shape that swims
    on some ancient river.

    With no weapon, and no plan,
    Neither at rest nor hurrying,
    the swimmer is parted from his shadow
    which is slipping along the bottom.

    He has fought to get free
    from millions of sleeping leaves,
    to make it to the other shore
    and join his shadow again.

    - Tomas Tranströmer [1]
    This poem, written in the 1950s, may reference images in a Wadi Sura cave, on the Egyptian border near Libya - the Cave of Swimmers. [2]  

    [1] From: The Half-finished Heaven: the Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, selected and translated by Robert Bly, 2001, Graywolf Press

    [2] Cave of Swimmers figures prominently in the 1992 book The English Patient and in its 1996 film adaptation. The cave shown in the film is not the original but a film set created by a contemporary artist. Fame has taken a toll as an increase in visitors has increased damage to the cave’s paintings. 

    Photo by Roland Unger, all rights reserved. Detail of swimmers, Wadi Sur

  • The Long Count

    In a refreshingly straightforward essay James Rauff, a professor of mathematics, considers North American rock art tallies from a mathematical point of view. [1] “Tallies represent a count of something, ” he says, and recognizes, “the ambiguity between artistic choice and tally.”  And notes, “As we study the tallies on rock art, a particularly difficult question arises: How is one to distinguish a tally from a design.”

    Rauff’s thoughts and sketches provoked me to think more carefully about series of marks, lines, dots, strokes, and figures as possible sequences and patterns that may be instances of tallies. The question is not so simple. I may be seeing linear, or what I perceive as logical progressions, as universal counting. A mistake to do so. I conclude there is no pure tally given the marks’ (and the makers’) own internal and obscure meanings. There may be an accounting of objects or a marking of time intervals, but the visual configuration of a petroglyph on stone is always an image with various signs and/or symbolic elements. [2]    

    As I identify possible tally marks, I see the complexity of notations merging as symbols or figures. Yes, the visual sense of counting in the sense of mathematics lends a density to inherent meaning. Further, I think of the possible use sequential marks as a form of re-counting, as memory-making, as a mnemonic. This remembering manifests as re-collection and storytelling, bridging realms.

    Rauff elegantly sums up his position, “Ultimately, the bulk of the interpretations of tally marks are pure speculation. My favorite interpretation is that of George Bull Tail. He is quoted as saying that the tally marks were made 'by the Little People to keep track of numbers or something' ".

    Photos possible Tallies:  Rock Art Tally Marks

    [1] James V. Rauff. "Rock Art Tallies: Mathematics on Stone in Western North America." Journal of Humanistic Mathematics 3, no. 2 (2013): 76-87. Bull Tail quote p.85. Available as a PDF at   http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1103&context=jhm
    [2] The complexities of notation, or schemata, and pictures as images are well elucidated by art historian and theorist James Elkins in his numerous books and papers.
    Further reading. William Breen Murray, "Numerical representations in North American rock art," in Native American mathematics (1986), 45-70. Michael P Closs, ed., University of Texas Press.

  • Presence of The Dark

    Awakening to the night opens a dark eye into the invisible world.  James Hillman [1]

    With the shadows I am trying to represent the will of each stone. But at the same time, it's a reflection of the visitor’s own thought, an invitation to enter an imaginary world.  Lee Ufan [2]

    Ruminating into the shadows during this season of the longest night, I think first of those passionate people who examine, record, and document petroglyphs. All manner of illumination may be employed, even obsessively, to “capture” the carvings’ forms and precise details. For many years this has included chalkings, paintings, scraping moss and lichens, rubbings, and tracings, followed by photographs or drawings.  When timing a  precise angle of the light was not adequately revealing, the stone and marking may be wetted or, inviting shadows, photographed at night strafed by studio lights. Now 3-D laser scans, cameras drooping from balloons, and hovering drones simultaneously leave no stone untouched and do not touch the stone. What is the contained residue of this research? Designs, motifs, elements, floating signifiers.

    What is missed in this sharp looking? I say the elusive whispers of the muses of imagining who with respect may emerge from the realm of shades. Or pull us toward, within. We can choose to follow, along the edges, bearing light and night, bright and dark, each in mind and heart. The photographs here seek to open to the presence of the dark. Through the images, to feel the elusive depths of being human.

    Shadow Glyphs

    [1] From the essay “Waking at Night” in The Force of Character (1999).
    [2] June 2014 interview quote from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCiAZwLXUTM.  Lee Ufan, cofounder of Japan's Mono-ha (School of Things) movement, displayed ten new sculptures from his "Relatum" series on the grounds of Louis XIV’s 17th century royal palace Château de Versailles, outside Paris, summer and fall 2014. Views of the sculptures: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ooT07R_ExU

  • Traces: Multidimensionality in Modoc country

    This sensual small grotto, the base of a basalt rim, holds clear, well-executed petroglyphs. At the time of my visit in July to this place in Modoc County, NE California, I did not see rock painting. That morning I was entranced by the rock carvings and the fluid protrusions of the congealed lava of the central stone.

    Later as I looked at the photos on my computer I noticed some faint colorations. There is a tint to red ochre distinct from the variety of warm colors appearing in weathered, patinaed, lichened basalt. At such moments, even when faint, intentional marks as applied paint emerge – if you are attuned and lucky.

    Intrigued, an enhanced photo revealed an array of applied paints. Traces appeared. It was clear the once-bright ochre had been applied in relationship to and in some instances directly over the petroglyphs. When, why, and by whom, is unknown. Now on public lands, this place is part of the country occupied and traversed by Pit River and Modoc tribal peoples for millennia. It is likely peoples from the Great Basin also moved through this country in times past and possibly bands from the Shasta area or the distant Columbia Basin. A place of intersections. Rock art emerges as traces of those early inhabitants and travelers.
    To view larger versions:   
    Grotto Modoc County

  • The Probability Landscape

    Over the edges and horizons of the probability landscape, waiting for us, are the unseen, unthought forests and deserts of the visible. Finn Brunton [1]

    Brunton’s statement is a bit out of context, but I couldn't resist its topographic poetry. It called to mind a site visited earlier this year located near Lake County's Warner Valley. This selection of photographs of archaic petroglyphs attempts to capture an instance of a “probability landscape.” Warner Valley 

    [1] Brunton discusses visual analysis of paintings by computers using algorithms. The materials, strokes, lines, and marks are “decisions made against the backdrop of all others possible marks not made.” For him this means, “every painting becomes a landscape painting.” Hence, a probability landscape. This stylistic and material analysis leads to discerning authenticity, attribution, and dating. With rock art, variables may include pigments, application methods, pecking and abrasion, and the characteristics of the stone and its coatings. Finn Brunton, “The Hidden Variable.” Artforum, November 2014, p.120.

  • The virtual focus of the visible

    Meaning is invisible, but the invisible is not contradictory of the visible, the visible itself has an invisible inner framework, and the in-visible is the secret counterpart of the visible, it appears only within it … every effort to see it there makes it disappear, but it is in the line of the visible, it is its virtual focus, it is inscribed with in it (in filigree.)
    - Maurice Merleau-Ponty, in Working Notes, circa 1961, published 1968

    Despite an ambiguous tension in experiencing petroglyph images in places, the visible and the invisible are not in opposition. A third presence implied, invited - one of spirit.   So it is with petroglyphs in Canyon de Chelly in northeast Arizona.

  • Red paintings of Devil’s Lake

    At Devil’s Lake Pass, near the Cascades Lakes Highway west of Mt. Bachelor, the traveler may discover significant central Oregon pictographs, red-ochre paintings, on boulders of an obsidian dome. As early as 1920, a writer offered her fanciful interpretation of these rock paintings in a vacation travel article in the Sunday Oregonian, referring to the “picture writing” as a “red warning” … a “dread message” to the Indian about the dangers of nearby waters. 

    One motif is probably the most recognized pictograph image south of the Columbia.  This motif (inverted) is illustrated in Cressman (1937), though he did not visit the site, which is on Forest Service lands in Deschutes County. The Lorings (1982) offer a good overview as site 81: Devils Lake Pass. It is disturbing the site has been badly vandalized at times – and also admirably restored. For example, a serious bright blue spray painting in the 1970s instilled doubt the images could be saved. A group of paintings was chiseled off and stolen in the late 1960s. 

    To view images:  Devils Lake    
    Examples of other rock paintings in central Oregon with apparent cultural affinities:
    Picture Gorge and Umpqua River.  

    Errata.
    - A fine summary of the geology is provided by Northwest Research Obsidian Studies Laboratory, which uses the most distinct and notable image as its logo.
    The only earth rock on the moon came from a volcanic dome near Devil’s Lake. In the mid-1960s, astronauts trained along the Cascade Lakes Highway in preparation for the Apollo missions to the moon. In 1971, Astronaut Jim Irwin of the Apollo 15 mission placed an earth rock from a volcanic dome near Devils Lake on the lunar surface. Cascade Lakes Highway

  • Ghosts, Souls, Spirits – and the Numen

    Souls and ghosts are separate entities and again are sharply distinct from spirits. -Leslie Spier [1]

    With “a transition from the material to the psychical point of view… three dimensions become two as the perspective of nature, flesh, and matter fall away, leaving an existence of immaterial, mirrorlike images, eidola. We are in the land of the soul.” -James Hillman [2]

    Verne Ray discussed and compared what and how spirits, souls, and ghosts were felt and responded to among the indigenous peoples of cultural area he calls the Plateau of northwestern America. [3]

    Ray characterizes spirits as forms of power, which may assume animal, or anthropomorphic forms. The spirit does not reside in the human body, yet the soul is the “animating force in the body.” When the body dies and decays there is a separation of the soul from the body. “The soul becomes transformed into a ghost and continues to exist.” He adds: “unless it immediately goes to the land of the dead.” Leslie Spier’s 1930 Klamath Ethnography was one of mnay sources for the distinctions he discusses. [1]

    Robert David also draws on Spier’s work [4]. David claries the relationship for the Klamath. Spirits manifest as animals, as natural elements, or as “anthropomorphic beings.” They dwell in natural places. The soul is in the body, near the heart. As an animating breathe of life, all creatures have souls.  When a person dies, the soul separates and departs for the land of the dead. Differing somewhat from Ray, he says ghosts are souls returning from the land of the dead and, transformed as beings, are generally dangerous and feared. He emphasizes, following Spier, “Spirits, souls, and ghosts all play different roles in Klamath-Modoc cosmology.”

    How do we think-with rock-art images when the original intent or purpose has been obscured by time, weathering, and cultural change? This question came to mind as last month I studied these carvings on cliff in the Deschutes River Canyon [5].  Wondering… Are these figures? Do they represent? If so, what, and how?

    Among a variety of carvings on various cliffs, at one site eleven figures appear with human-or-animal-like attributes. These images float. They do not seem to represent persons or corporeal beings, rather dream or myth images. This group of unusual carved images locate approximately equidistant between the traditional tribal territories the Klamath peoples in south central Oregon and The Dalles on the Columbia River. Is there a connecting link or thread? A relationship to Plateau tribal culture? I don’t know. I am also not aware whether this group of carvings have been described or studied. (Note 1)  As is usual with petroglyphs, in the absence of reliable dating and known cultural affiliation or influences, discerning the intention or sequence is not possible.

    To extend this thinking-with, I turn to James Hillman, an archetypal psychologist working from the western tradition. Ray and David articulate too through a western lens, citing ethnologists, notably Spier, to arrive at the namings: spirit, soul, ghost. Hillman points out “shadow images … fill archetypal roles: they are personae, masks, in the hollow of which is the numen.” [6]  He encourages us, citing Jung, to look to the “significance of archetypal contents.” Hillman’s numen, as an animating or divine essence, infuses these realms and offers a useful concept as it reveals the depth of how human consciousness may apprehend the invisible.

    SOURCES 
    [1] Leslie Spier. 1930. Klamath Ethnography. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnography, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 1-338. p.100 (cited by Ray 1939 p. 78)
    [2] James Hillman, 1979. The Dream and the Underworld. Harper & Row. p. 51
    [3] Verne Ray. 1939 Cultural Relations in the Plateau of Northwestern America. Fredrick Webb Hodge Anniversary Publication Fund, Vol. III.
    [4] Robert David. 2012. The Landscape of Klamath Basin Rock Art. UC Berkeley. pp. 18-19.
    To complement David’s work about the Klamath Basin, and to compare with the culture of the Modoc Plateau, see Verne Ray. 1963. Primitive Pragmatists: The Modoc Indians of Northern California. University of Washington Press.
    [5] About Central Oregon's Wild River Wilderness:  Oregon Natural Desert Association
    [6] James Hillman. 1979. The Dream and the Underworld. Harper & Row. p. 60-61
    Note 1: The Lorings (1982) provide a good summary of two other sites in the canyon of the middle Deschutes River in Jefferson County: Site 68, Peninsula, and Site 69, Steelhead Falls.

  • Ancient Rock Art = Today’s News

    Today’s Herald and News (Klamath Falls) newspaper’s Outdoor section featured a rock art story about my research and photos with a focus on Lake County.  

    Lacey Jarrell, the H&N’s award-winning environmental reporter, attended last month's Desert Conference in Bend and contacted me. I recommended she talk too with Eric Ritter, the BLM archaeologist in Redding who’s done a lifetime of fine work.  Always interesting to see how a reporter kindly, and asutely in this instance, extracts a story from all your carefully honed and nuanced wisdom… aka ramblings. 

    For story and photos: Ancient Gallery

  • Traversing the Oregon Badlands

    Where else can you leave one of the microbrew centers of the West, drive half an hour and hike right into an official Wilderness? Well, Bend to the Oregon Badlands.  Where else can you traverse a dry river that during the wetter years of the Pleistocene was a rushing river cutting a gorge and narrow canyons through the basalt. Millennia of churning water also ground hollows, often called tinajas in desert areas, which can hold water long after the a seasonal river disappears.  These modest water catchments were an attractive, even essential, water source for desert dwellers and travelers.  And places where painted or carved symbols or signs may appear.

    One such rock painting is located on an oval rock face near bedrock tinajas in a Dry River slot canyon in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, east of Bend.  Though now faded, the simple design is precise, even poised.  Whether marker, a prayer, a signal of gratitude, or perhaps recognition of the power of place, I delighted in the beauty of this quiet congruence.

    Note: This general area, along the Dry River Trail, is known as the Bombing Range, due to its use as a gunnery and, yes, bombing range in WW II.  Big Bad Lands. This pictograph place is thus so named in the Lorings’ compilation as site 83. There is another rock painting locale a few miles to the southeast within the upper Dry River Canyon (Lorings’ site 84), on adjacent, non-Wilderness BLM lands. 

    About the Badlands:  ONDA -  an organization instrumental is the 2008 designation of Oregon Badlands Wilderness by the then-do-something-good US Congress. 

    Below, tinaja in canyon's basalt near Dry River rock paintings

  • Held still and moving through time

    As we look with rock art, how do we experience the multiple dimensions? Perhaps start with this from Edward O. Wilson

    “The basic goal of activity mapping is to connect all of the processes of thought – rational and emotional; conscious, preconscious, and unconscious; held still and moving through time – to a physical base.” [1]

    I find this provocative and expansive in a way that challenges me to see-with and perchance open re-cognition. Wilson’s statement references mapping brain activity. It suggests to me a wider landscape of attention.

    When we see an apparent two-dimensional human-made image it is always already in the third dimension of material and place.  Though flattened and abstracted by the photograph, we can yet imagine this textural and spatial dimension.  Further, “held still and moving through time” introduces the fluidity of the fourth dimension – from the action of making to the changes of the stone and its environment, with the possibilities of subsequent markings and narratives.  “Connecting all the processes … to a physical base.”

    The image below: From a rim edging a seasonal lake-playa in the High Lakes region of Lake County, Oregon. Click for Album

    [1] Edward O. Wilson.  “On Free Will.”  Harper’s Magazine, September 2014, 49-52.

  • Desert Conference and Petroglyphs

    The 27th Desert Conference, September 19-20, in Bend, Oregon, presents speakers, panel discussions, and gatherings to provide a deeper understanding of the high desert of the Great Basin and beyond. A focus Oregon Natural Desert Association's event will be the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and its future.  

    As an invited panelist, I will present, “The Places and Placings of Petroglyphs in southeast Oregon,” with a focus on the rock art of three places within the Owyhee Canyonlands, Owyhee River, and Hart-Warner High Lakes. 

    Downloadable now, the powerpoint of this presentation on southeast Oregon petroglyphs is an 8 MB pdf of 40 slide-pages with photographs, maps, and references: Beauchamp Desert Conference Sep2014r.pdf

    In June, Owyhee Canyonlands featured a blog post from rockartoregon.com: Rock Art in Owyhee.

  • Chocolate-colored basalt and other impasses

    Ruiz and Pereira recently lamented the “arbitrary naming” to describe color in rock art, such as “wine-coloured red.” They also viewed the scales (including IFRAO’s) and charts used by rock art researchers as limitations and at an impasse. [1]

    Why is this important?  Well, they say, to create better understanding and to assist preservation.  All for the good.

    Still, as the science of color in rock art inevitably advances with digital technology, it seems to me this is a sweetly fitting moment to recall Heizer and Baumhoff’s 1962 call for further research in “determining the importance of chocolate –colored basalt in providing proper surfaces for inscribing petroglyphs.” This basalt was, in their opinion, an ideal material. [2]

    Plew described a similar distribution pattern in SW Idaho.  Many petroglyphs occurred in areas where chocolate-colored basalt was available and where it was “limited or absent, few petroglyphs occurred.” [3]

    So, may I offer – as an album of boulders from Rabbit Rim - an indulgence of petroglyphs on richly-patinaed, chocolate-colored basalt? Best viewed with a cup of wine-coloured refreshment in hand.  All with fond remembrance to the subjectivity of “human differences/acumen in identifying colour.” [1]

    NOTES

    [1] Juan F. Ruiz and José Pereira. 2014. The colours of rock art. Analysis of colour recording and communication systems in rock art research.  Journal of Archaeological Science. Vol 50 (Oct 2014): 338–349.

    The authors propose, “a reliable solution for recording of the colours of rock art, ” with the aim to “ produce an objective description of colour are essential to describe rock art colour in an accurate and reproducible way, even in complex recording environments such as open-air rock art sites. Human differences/acumen in identifying colour will always lead to subjective and potentially non-repeatable identification in the field.” (348)  Pereira’s Digital Heritage website offers a rich portal into this realm:  www.jpereira.net

    [2] Robert Heizer and Martin Baumhoff. 1962. Prehistoric Rock Art of Nevada and Eastern California. University of California Press, Berkeley.  Of course, the term “chocolate–colored basalt” did not originate with H&B, though it’s likely they first applied it to rock art.  Indeed, the San Francisco Theological Seminary, built in the 1890s just across the Bay from Berkeley, was constructed of “stone of a chocolate-colored basalt.”  SFTS remains a distinctive 14-acre complex and is a favored setting for weddings.

    [3] Mark G. Plew. 1996. "Distribution of Rock Art Elements and Styles at Three Localities in the Southcentral Owyhee Uplands". Idaho Archaeologist, 19(1), 3-10.

  • What is an image?

    This rock painting is an image, faded, now barely discernible.  But where does the image begin?  And, where does it end?  In this case the image is not simply the lines of red ochre forming a design. It is also the distinct, slender triangle of basalt pointing downward.  It is the crevices that set apart this sculptural form.  By extension it is the surround, the place, image embodied as narrative relationship, moving inward and out.

    Image is an elusive word for concepts used by many to denote a range of meanings.  I will go with James Elkins who said, in The Domain of Images, for his purposes, “an image is patterns on surfaces, taken in by the eye.” He adds, an image is the same as a “visual artifact.” [1]

    The second image at work here is the photograph, another pattern on a surface. The diverse images in the album display selected framings of this singular rock painting.  Some with modifications of contrast and coloration to help “see-again” the painted image. The painter saw, made, lived in, and understood a context very different than I as I stood before it.  And very different than the one you view on the screen, as a digital rectangle. Together, the images tell a story in the present pointing to a time past and implying time forward.  Now it’s your story.

  • The Geometrical Act of Grounding

    The life of the desert lives by adapting itself to the conditions of the desert … And so it happens that those things that can live in the desert become stamped after a time with a peculiar desert character … The struggle seems to develop in them special characteristics and make them, not different from their kind; but more positive, more insistent.  John C. Van Dyke

    The recognition of gravity prepares the geometrical act of grounding, making the ground ready to raise screens to other forces: light, wind and rain.  Ãlvaro Malo

    To other forces: Stone, Gravity, and Barren Valley petroglyphs

    [1] John C. Van Dyke, The Desert: Further Studies in Natural Appearances. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. [2] Ãlvaro Malo, A desert land ethic: aesthetic research, 2003.

  • Out There and the Right to Look

    The “right to look”… is not a right in the sense of human rights… it is the claim to a subjectivity that has the autonomy to arrange and rearrange the relations of the visible and the sayable. [1]

    The beauty of public lands, the greatness of the commons in the old and fine sense, is the access with implied respect. Anyone who has sought out and discovered rock art often crisscrosses modified terrains, channeled and dammed waterways, fences and gates, wild and domestic animals, and replaced or erased plant communities. In the BLM and National Forest lands of Oregon and Northern California, I am continually reminded every chunk of land is managed and has been or is being modified in some way.

    I can look and do so.  And in so doing and in looking, see strange things. This is encompassed within the experience of being out there.  It provokes arrangement of the visible and the sayable.  Then, arriving near a bramble-sheltered rim with a petroglyph facing east, or studying a deeply carved boulder on a slope near a waterway, looking deepens. 

    Petroglyphs from four locales in SE Klamath and SW Lake counties are pictured – and included with a few along-the-way looked-at crossings.  [1]  Nicholas Mirzoeff. 2014. “Visualizing the Anthropocene.” Public Culture 26, no. 2: 213-232.