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  • 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.

  • 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