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  • It is tempting to envision

    Grimes Point is located at the western tip of the Lahontan Mountains. Here there are abundant petroglyphs pecked into basaltic boulders distributed along crude shoreline terraces formed by waves of Lake Lahontan.  The age of the petroglyphs is not known so temporal associations with lake levels cannot be made with certainty, but it is tempting to envision Native Americans lounging amongst the rocks idly pecking away after a nice swim or clam bake.
    Susan H. Zimmerman, Kenneth D. Adams, and Michael R. Rosen, 2015 [1]

    The last phrase in the above quote is highlighted so we may think with it for a moment.  Certainly it is tempting when encountering petroglyphs to attempt to envision indigenous lifeways at the time the stones were carved.  Envision means to imagine, to conjure a picture in the mind.  Such a picture will always be our picture, our frame, our composition, the cosmos on our terms.  If words such as lounging, idly pecking, nice swim, enter into our picture it is time to recognize we have conjured our fantasy.  Time to step back, way back, to sense this place’s presence. Look and listen. The stones abide; the petroglyphs resound.

    Recognize, too, in the 20th century the material reality for this place, these stones, has often been one of destructive impacts and disregard. Roads through the site, bulldozing, quarrying, boulders displaced, removed, damaged or destroyed, painted signs and graffiti. [2]  Beginning in the 1950s, the Grimes Point petroglyph area was used as a trash dump for Fallon, a few miles to the northwest. [3] Only since the 1970s have protective measures by the BLM encouraged care and respect. [4]  The stones abide; the petroglyphs resound.

    [1] Susan Zimmerman, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Ken Adams, Desert Research Institute, and Michael Rosen, U.S. Geological Survey.  2015.   From “Modern, Holocene, and Pleistocene Lake Locales in the Western Great Basin, Nevada and California.”  Trip 3, June 15–19, 2015, in the Field Trip Guidebook, Sixth International Limnogeology Congress, Reno, Nevada.  p67.   
    [2] Karen M. Nissen 1982.  Images from the Past: An Analysis of Six Western Great Basin Petroglyph Sites. PhD. Diss, UC Berkeley.  p294.  During two field seasons in the 1970s Nissen recorded or noted over 900 boulders with petroglyphs at Grimes Point.  
    [3] Robert Heizer and Martin Baumhoff.  1962. Prehistoric Rock Art of Nevada and Eastern California. p18.
    (4) Grimes Point Archaeological Area (BLM).   Online Nevada: Grimes Point (Alanah Woody)

    Photos at Grimes Point

  • Sinking into Earth

    At hand, the deeply dark petroglyphs near Carson Sink in northern Nevada. It’s tempting to peruse the boulders and images, then wind along my away. [1] Lingering, my thoughts imagine the possible landscapes – waters, plants, birds, animals - how this country may have varied when the peoples who carved these images resided in and traveled through. These wonderings wheel back to considering how the landscape appears today. And what the future holds.

    Sounds of the national anthem drift across the early desert. Loudspeakers a few miles away. I notice 8 a.m. The anthem sifts over the quiet land from the Naval Air Station near Fallon: “Home to the Fighting Saints of VFC-13, the Desert Outlaws of Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, and the Naval Strike Air Warfare Center, NAS Fallon serves as the Navy’s premier tactical air warfare training center.” [2]

    A scattered patchwork of five bombing ranges comprising 100,000 acres inscribe on the nearby terrain of Northern Nevada. [3] Though the rock art meanings may seem mute in this presence, the carvings induce listening and looking, as unfurling intimations - there and here, past and future. A necessary and material sense of change turns, refolds, embraces this earth.

    [1] Modern research on the region’s rock art began with Julian Steward (1929); enhanced by Martin Baumhoff and Robert Heizer (1958; 1962); followed by Karen Nissen’s detailed documentation in the 1970s (1982).
    [2] Naval Air Station Fallon
    [3] The Center for Land Use Interpretation

    View Petroglyphs Carson Sink

  • Grimes Point of View: One boulder, a worldview

    Art engenders becomings, not imaginative becomings - the elaboration of images and narratives in which a subject might recognize itself, not self-representations, narratives, confessions, testimonies of what is and has been - but material becomings, in which these imponderable universal forces touch and become enveloped in life, in which life folds over itself to embrace its contact with materiality, in which each exchanges some elements or particles with the other to become more and other. Elizabeth Grosz [1]

    Grimes Point Archaeological Area, an extensive, fully accessible, and signed field of dark boulders with archaic petroglyphs, is adjacent to Highway 50 east of Fallon.

    The locale looks west and south over the Carson Sink, a terminus of the Carson River, in Churchill County, Nevada. Well-managed by the BLM, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Some boulders bear arrays of deeply patinaed cupules. These ancient “conical pits” associated occasionally with lines or grooves led to Baumhoff and Heizer’s in 1958 (and 1962) typing the “pit-and-groove” petroglyph style. They conjectured that this style represented the earliest petroglyphs in a wide expanse of the Great Basin. Though they cautioned their proposal as tentative pending dating, many rock art writers in the ensuing decades reified this style as fixed truth. I do believe these cupuled boulders are, in many of the instances I’ve seen in the northern Great Basin and Columbia Plateau, early Holocene (7,000+ years before present time [BP]). However, the designs and configurations are not rightly constrained as fixed cultural “elements,” while solid dating remains elusive. A worldview beyond grasp. What we have is the beauty of the densely-colored, dimpled desert boulders recalling watery eras – a sensible materiality. 

    This is one boulder: Point of View

    [1] Elizabeth Grosz. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth (2008) p.23

  • The Grain of the Moon

    It is not uncommon for today’s full moon to be called Hunter Moon.  A few nights ago I camped in the tall sage near an old corral.  Two hunters crept along, dusk, in their truck down the rocky road. We talked a bit. They, looking for mule deer, outfitted in full dress camo, kindly apologized for having disturbed me. I, seeking landscapes of rock art, in dusty fleece and levied twill, wished them well.  Though I don't kill animals.  Nor eat meat.  We each have our ways of being in this fleeting world, of looking and seeking.  What we give and take beyond our grasp.  Under the silver waxing moon and golden rising sun, I was lucky.  Circles embracing the grain of the moment. Laden, ripe, holding forth.

    Two Circles. Petroglyph images in the Washoe-Lassen borderlands, the country northwest of Pyramid Lake.

  • Great Basin Anthropological Conference October 5-8 2016

    Great Basin Anthropological Conference (GBAC) convenes this week in Reno Nevada. The 2016 biennial gathering includes 13 presentations on rock art  topics.  

    Notable: Australian scholar Jo McDonald on Arid Zone Hunter-Gatherer Rock Art: a View of the Great Basin from the Western Desert.  Professor McDonald’s impressive accomplishments, among them the book Dreamtime Superhighway, can be viewed at http://www.web.uwa.edu.au/people/jo.mcdonald

    Angus Quinlan, the accomplished director of the Nevada Rock Art Foundation, will offer a variety of topics including Social Perspectives on Rock Art’s Variable Distribution in Great Basin Archaeology.

    Douglas Beauchamp will present a non-rock art topic: Clovis Orange: Traverses and Uncertainties in the Alkali Lake Basin, Lake County, Oregon.  To view the images:  CLOVIS ORANGE

    To view or download the GBAC program: http://greatbasinanthropologicalassociation.org/gbac/2016-program-gbac/

  • Artifacts & Terrains II: Harney County

    In the West it is impossible to be unconscious of or indifferent to space. At every city's edge it confronts us as federal lands kept open by aridity and the custodial bureaus; out in the boondocks it engulfs us. And it does contribute to individualism, if only because in that much emptiness people have the dignity of rareness and must do much of what they do without: help, and because self-reliance becomes a social imperative, part of a code. Wallace Stegner [1]

    September in south Harney County.  Sage. Thin meandering roads. Thinner linear fences. The surprise of water here and there. A sparse happenstance of ancient and settler artifacts.  Rock art, some. Mostly no rock art. Early peoples were highly selective – good rock, the right aspect, a remembered and revered place. A land of curves, disappearances, hard stone, remnants, and striking vistas. Often treeless for miles in every direction.

    Few cattle ranging this season; plenty of evidence left behind.   BLM over the last several decades has provided small reservoirs, bermed drainages, tapped springs, and installed water tanks for seasonal cattle. Roads and fences. With these subsidized, mostly corporate, operations on public lands the opportunistic cattle munch, stomp, and drop. Then herded or trucked to winter grounds – or to market. Pronghorn, deer, bighorn, coyote, grouse keep distance.

    Photos Part II:  Artifacts & Terrains Harney County Oregon. Sep 2016.

    Album Part I:   Artifacts & Terrains   June 2016
    ...
    [1] Thirty years ago, October 1986, the eminent 77-year old scholar and author Wallace Stegner gave three nights of lectures. The book’s title captures an essence: The American West as living space.   The lectures are equally telling: Living Dry, Striking the Rock, Variations on a Theme. His words have a piercingly familiar ring (or echo?) in the present, as past and future entwine, repeat, are reborn. This brief book is recommended.

  • Horizons Thicken and Compress

    Let me define wholeness as horizon rather than destination: a horizon which recedes as the journey through life unfolds. Anne Buttimer, 1985 [1]

    Humanity is inside the whale now, bumping up against that thing once taken as the ‘open’ horizons of nature and the future, which now feels claustrophobically close and foreclosed. … Inside that thing, knowing what it’s hard to not know about rising global emissions levels, defrosting methane hydrates and negative feedback loops, even mountain air is no longer clean and fresh. The air is now thick with atmosphere… Simon Bayly, 2012 [2]

    This decades-old juniper, on the edge of an ephemeral lake in the basin and range country of Oregon, the only tree as far as the eye can see, pulls power toward place -  a slim rock-cleft shelter, rock features, petroglyphs.

    In 2014, this solo juniper glowed, alive and well.  In 2016, brittle, desiccated and dead. Between: 2015, a year of continued drought and heat; the northern Great Basin wavers. 

    In our 21st century time, as horizons thicken, recession compresses, how and wherefore art the sacred power?

    To view:  Horizons

    [1] Anne Buttimer, Irish geographer, emeritus professor of geography, University College, Dublin.   Quote from "Nature, water symbols, and the human quest for wholeness." In Dwelling, place and environment, pp. 259-280.   Springer Netherlands, 1985. 

    [2] Simon Bayly, University of Roehampton (London), Department of Drama, Theatre & Performance.  Quote from “The Persistence of Waste” (online version and in Performance Research: On Ecology, 2012]

  • Living on Earth: A tough fragility

    Living on Earth means arriving, finding water, inhabiting, moving on.  A tough fragility with focused intention in a shifting landscape. 

    Figures appear in all four new albums from Southeast Oregon's Lake, Harney and Malheur Counties now posted at rockartoregon.com

    Interface: Similarity and distinction

    Journey: Emergence, seasonal round, blessed water

    Water: Fluid and hollowed, ephemeral and contained

    Scratched petroglyphs:  Marking Place

  • Rising in the Southern Salish Sea

    During the misty mid-June day I took this photograph in Case Inlet, an eastern bay of the Southern Salish Sea, the tidal swing was nearly 14 feet. A swing of 18 feet is not uncommon [1]. In the photo the tide begins its rise from a minus low.

    A different kind of sea level rise will mark this shore in a profound way in coming decades. As a “mid-range” projection a permanent rise of two feet is predicted by the end of this century [2]. Eventually the boulder’s twenty circles will disappear by barnacle, erosion, and/or inundation. Does it matter? Many lives and species will have been dramatically decimated by that time given current trends. How does this pending catastrophe matter? [3]

    Meanwhile these circles story forth. Messages of cycles we moderns are unlikely to decipher, or indeed heed, except in general speculative terms [4]. To my knowledge this is the only petroglyph in the Puget Sound area that is entirely circles with no apparent iconic referencing [5].   Listen for a moment in this time of change

    [1] By comparison the tidal swing that day in Florence, Oregon, was 7 feet
    [2] Not counting the increasing flood risks. See: http://www.climatecentral.org/ Also:  http://www.climatecentral.org/pdfs/SLR-WA-PressRelease.pdf
    [3] The Anthropocene project: virtue in the age of climate change by Byron Williston (2015 Oxford University Press ) is a sharply provocative and convincing examination of the approaching catastrophe. He explores the ethics and morals of choice and denial. https://byronwilliston.com/
    [4] There appears an absence of formal documentation of this and a nearby petroglyph boulder, though a flickering of images appear on the internet without details. Its age or purpose is unknown. Some speculate that this type of imagery in sea-edge or riverine zones is related to abundance, as supplication or as gratitude. Little proof of intent exists.
    [5] Though many of the few Puget Sound petroglyphs are composed of circular elements, often suggesting eyes and faces. There are two locations I’ve visited on the Oregon coast with carved circles on sea-edge boulders: An Oregon coast boulder

    Circles Boulder in Salish Sea

  • Artifacts & Terrains Harney County

    What was the desert for these artists? It embodied, at different times, each of the attitudes I've set out: the wasteland and the hygienic reserve; the back lot of modernity; and the staging ground for its deepest myths of independence, wildness, and freedom. In these terms, "the peace of the desert" was one myth among many.
    Julian Myers, in Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 (Book for a 2012 exhibition)

    Though Julian Myers speaks to the intentional thrust of “Land Artists” in the 1960s and 1970s, his observation embraces in large part, I believe, Western historic and modernist sensibilities, hopes, and assumptions. And speculations. What is a desert? What is a mark?  What is an artifact?  What is left, found?  Claimed, reclaimed, unclaimed, disclaimed? How is the terrain, the stone, bared, patinaed, eroded, sedimented?

    Caution: next gas and water (and beer?) is 99 miles. These Harney County Oregon images, June 2016, offer far more questions than answers.


  • Bullets, Stupidity, Beauty

    For untold centuries this muted earth-red boulder, sloughed off the basalt rim above, displayed a complex array of archaic petroglyphs.  The winds, dust, rain, and snow of the Summer Lake basin patinaed this roughly textured stone and its carvings. White explorers and settlers for nearly 200 years left it untouched, in peace.  Recently intentionally shot with a gun, four times, the surface now marked with bright gray bullet pits.  This complex place and its boulder now become witnesses and bearers of stupidity and arrogance.  In addition to offering its deep beauty. 

    Two Before-After sets below. (Photos Douglas Beauchamp 2010-2012 & 2016)  

  • Beyond Parts and Wholes

    The whole is something else than the sum of the parts, because summing is a meaningless procedure, whereas the whole-part relationship is meaningful.
    Kurt Koffka, in Principles of Gestalt Psychology (1935)

    One of the three founders of modern Gestalt psychology, Koffka penned this to counter the misattribution of the common precept “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” to him, Max Wertheimer, and Wolfgang Kohler.

    Why offer a fine-grained distinction in perceptual theory? To openly consider perception of configurations of marks on stone, I will assert. To encourage us to look beyond framing, beyond glyphs as elements, beyond summing, beyond the limits of our known world. We may then see-into relationships and allow this perceiving to constitute more-than parts, more-than whole. Or, as Philip Rawson suggests, seeing hidden in traces the gestalten of our universe as spatio-temporal rhythms. This whole will always be contingent, offering glimpses of a fleeting unitary beyond our moment within a multiplicity of appearances. The materiality of stone assures, as does weathering, and sensed duration.

    This gathering of photo-images of petroglyphs on a basalt rim in SE Oregon’s Owyhee country are part of a whole ever beyond containment. I rest, appreciating glimpses into the distances and depths.

  • Art. and Not. and Art again.

    Great art has the “ability to simultaneously command attention and confound interpretation.  Work like this draws us in but ultimately frustrates our attempt to reduce the experience to anything like a definitive reading. We might call it Zeno’s paradox of meaning: The closer we get, the more numerous and splintered our frames of reference become.” Jordan Kantor, writing about Jackson Pollock, Artforum, March 2016

    The Art in Rock Art has been and will continue to be an object of subjective debate. Pointedly, is “it” Art ? Or Not? Or something else?  If you are already feeling the déjà vu of circularity, then you know how these discussions usually proceed.  You may wonder, Well?

    I attempt to see the thingness, the raw materiality of the stone, the carved-away, the pigment, in various ways - as figure or field, as time or place, as mind or heart.  Certainly my seeing and imaging is very different from the intent, action, and gaze of the creator-maker –  the artist, if you will. Art. I do see and experience some rock art as Art.  Some as Artifact. Some as mysterious, or ambiguous, or even random, lines and shapes.  I often feel beauty in the relationship of the weathering markings to the aging, stained and patinaed stone, to the lights and shadows, the lichens and mosses.  

    The materiality of a petroglyph or a rock painting is exactly what it is. It simply is. How it appears visually will alter over time or with varying light and weather.  Significantly, how it appears derives from the beholder’s imaginings. The image results from our beholding, culturally and personally engendered.  Each of us brings a discrete frame of reference as we discover, look, and gaze. Move closer, embodied, and drift further away.  As we frame – literally, as we decide where “it” ends and begins – we may recognize how arbitrary what we think we know and what we expect limits and constrains the elusive truth of the image. 

    Here's the crux: how I see and label in no way affects the original.  It is free and so am I with respect for its inherent integrity and right to be. I will not touch it, I may photograph it (a reductive framing), I will go on my way often moved by what I’ve seen, that is, imagined.  Later I may study and meditate on the visual image, with research, share my photo and thoughts with others.  I may call it Art.

    Regardless, as Robinson Jeffers observes in his early 20th c. poem Credo:
           The mind
    Passes, the eye closes, the spirit is a passage;
    The beauty of things was born before eyes
       and sufficient to itself; the heart-breaking beauty
    Will remain when there is no heart to break for it.

  • Future Views Now: Petroglyphs, Golf, 3D immersion

    Property and Ideoscape.  Landscape and Taskscape.  Mother Earth.  Investigating land use and how indigenous habitation, modern development, and natural change shape and affect rock art is crucial to understanding.  This includes physical and material context, access and preservation, and perception and respect.

    Church Rock in Shasta County, California, is exemplary for two reasons. All of the above dynamics play a role in appreciating this extensive site.   Second, the historical documentation includes extensive ethnography, old-school on the ground recording, and 3D digital imaging. (Including access to the UC Davis KeckCAVE’s immersive visualization facility.)  I know of no site in Oregon with this range of documentation.

    Church Rock (CA-SHA-39) is more than a rock. It’s an areal distribution of hundreds of carvings on the surfaces of exposed bedrock near two streams managed as a two-acre “cultural resource protection area” by its owner the City Of Redding

    In remote areas I pay attention to fences, waterholes, dams, and reservoirs, roads, domestic grazing, hunting tracks and blinds, and power lines.  In suburban zones and fringes it’s housing, roads again, pipelines, and, of course… Golf courses! [1]

    This cultural “reserve” is downstream from a major private housing and golf course development.  Agreement with the development helps control access (Church Rock is not open to the public), foster respect, with an aim toward preservation.  (To view a satellite image of the golf links and the petroglyph bedrock is to time-travel. One wonders, how will this appear in the Future?)

    [1] In Cups, Circles, and Golf Links I consider petroglyphs within two golf course developments: Big Island Hawaii and Northumberland England.  

    Three recommended, well-illustrated references
    - Van Tilburg, Frank Bock, and A. J. Bock. 1987. The Church Rock Petroglyph Site: Field Documentation and Preliminary Analysis. Occasional Papers of the Redding Museum No. 4, 1987.

    - Millett, Marshall and Ritter, Eric. 2013. "The Church Rock Petroglyph Site: Function, Style, Digital Documentation, and 3D Visualization" in International Federation of Rock Art Organizations 2013 Proceedings, American Indian Rock Art Vol. 40:1017-1040.
    - Mary Gerbic. 2015. A Field Trip to Church Rock. In SCAN, Santa Cruz Archaeological Society, Winter-Spring 2015: 5-8.

    Images
    - Golf Green in the vicinity of Church Rock. Photo Douglas Beauchamp 2016
    - Viewing a high-resolution 3D scan of the Maidu Historic Trail and Site at the UC Davis KeckCAVE’s immersive visualization facility.  (This not Church Rock; it’s an example of how 3D imaging of the site can be used.)

  • 10000 Years Plus or Minus

    Tao produced the One.
    The One produced the two.
    The two produced the three.
    And the three produced the ten thousand things.
          - Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching: about 2500 years ago [1]

    10000 years in the future.  What language do you speak?  How do you shape symbols, markers?  Gaze back to the Present.  How do you witness terrain?  What animals and plants do you see? How does the sky appear? 

    10000 years ago, early Archaic.  You are walking, what do you see?  How do you signal. Gesture? Gaze forward to this Present.  How would you make a Universal Warning Sign? 

    10000 years give or take, a blip in geologic time. Yet, an elusive temporal imagining for an embodied human. What image/symbol/figuration endures, holds meaning? How to chart it, graph it, digitize it, mark it, so… we get it?  As we inquire, we wonder - does it matter?  The Ten Thousand Things.  The eternal proliferation.  Back to square One of The Tao.

    Nuclear waste doesn't go away.  These are not simple questions with easy answers. Indeed they may be deadly important.  When Yucca Mountain, Nevada, was in serious consideration as a permanent disposal and containment site for “high level radioactive waste” (1987-2011) [2], how to warn future (human?) beings of danger spurred a design competition. A Universal Warning Sign was essential one that would be understood 10,000 years into the future. [3]

    The graphic image above is one part of the submission by Yulia Hanansen

    The first image below is a submission by Southwest Missouri State University's Brandon Alms.
    With the 2nd image below, not part of the competition, I offer as a counterpoint: a compelling art poster (1995) by Jaune Quick-To-See Smith.  She says, "I chose rabbits as an art icon because there is a cultural universality to them throughout the world."

    The 3rd image: a competition graphic by Yulia Hanansen.
    The final image: Archaic Petroglyph, Southeast Oregon, photo Douglas Beauchamp. 

    Notes
    [1] Lao Tzu, The Way of Lao Tzu, Wing-Tsit Chan, trans.

    [2] Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository
    [3] Universal Warning Sign competition (2002) for Yucca Mountain. Universal Warning Sign: Yucca Mountain.  Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (2015), by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, provides a concise overview about the 2002 Universal Warning Sign competition for Yucca Mountain.

  • Rock Paint Lake

    This collection of rock paintings from Lake County, Oregon, represent a variety of places, designs, and expressions. In most examples some of the context is shown, then a close-up.  All the close-up painted images have some digital color enhancement.  This abstracts and distorts their appearance. Yet it may open a better understanding of the original painting.

    OK, this is about as technical as I will get.  If you simply wish to enjoy the pictures, click Rock Paint Lake and take look. 

    I use Aperture* to adjust because I can maintain some sense of the natural stone.  However, two remarkable enhancement software tools are available and both can produce wonderful benefits. They are intended for paintings, though not all will be happy with the sometimes garish, contrasty colors. Nonetheless, they are frequently used as study tools and can be quite revealing, even delightfully shocking. I will welcome a comparison of the two.

    DStretch, the classic for PCs by Jon Harman, is now available as iDStretch for iPad and iPhone for $20.  www.dstretch.com/iDStretch/index.html

    LabStretch & LabStretch2, recent –free- offerings for iPad and iPhone from Rupestrian CyberServices, was developed by Robert Mark & Evelyn Billowww.rupestrian.com/labstretch.html

    I now use the iPhone 6s for all photos in "normal" distance and find the results excellent. iPhone zoom photos are not useful**.  So, now I will use the light-weight ultra-zoom Canon SX60; sensor is small, but with RAW and JPEG capability. (All the photos on this album are with a Nikon D5100.)

    * A note on Aperture. Apple has ceased further development though v. 3.6 works fine.  I am switching for simplicity to Apple OS’s newer PHOTOS and work on an iMac. If you love full-frame DSLRs and Photoshop my choices will not work for you. But for excellent results for online networking with some print capability, iPhone and PHOTOS is nicely integrated. (** iPhone 7 promises to go even further toward DLSR/zoom capabilities.) 

    Click this deep-shadow image to see photos.

  • TEN 2015

    A selection of 10 favorites from the year 2015. Link: Ten Album

    Image below is unlike any I’ve seen.  Deep, dark, old - a figure is suggested. The intent of the carver, the purpose of the image, feels ever-elusive.  So be it… as the year bows out with the grace of unknowing.  Peace.