Tag Archive for artistic tourist

The Need to Make Our Marks in the World – Petroglyphs in the Desert

Petroglyphs in Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

My take is that I need to make art work to stay sane. If I spend more than a few days without doing something, my fingers start getting itchy. So, it was with interest that I stopped by this overhang on the way back to the cars from our rattle blessing ceremony to look under this overhang to see some of the petroglyphs that were there. These were out from most of the weather, so they could still be seen. I’ve drawn two red arrows onto my photo to point out some of the animal “drawings” that had been etched into the rocks. (Also notice the layers of small rocks above the arrows that looked for all the world like teeth to me.) However, about 155 miles north from where I was are the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the Northern Hemisphere. The following photos were all shot by my friend. Jeff Cannon.

Going into Little Petroglyph Canyon, China Lake, Californina, USAThis is part of Little Petroglyph Canyon, on the China Lake Naval Weapons Station. As you walk the length of the canyon, the petroglyphs have been etched into the rocks. There are over 6,000 images that date from 16,000 years ago to the 1800s. Varying in size, there are some that are no bigger than a person’s hand while others stretch   as tall as about 12′ or 4 m. Weather, time, and the hot sun causes a patina to change the quality of the drawings, with the newest usually being lighter in color.

Human petroglyphs at China Lake, California, USAThese figures appear to be human like. They could have been important members of the people who created them, or they could be deities. Debates range as to the meanings of many of the pictures, as to whether they might have been “portraits” of the artists (“I made this!”) or pleas for Divine interventions.

These drawings of animals seem to have been made in layers on top of layers. Perhaps they were made to commemorate a successful hunt that was wanted to be duplicated. Perhaps, the animals of a More petroglyphs, China Lake, California, USAcertain kind were being hunted to extinction in the area, and these were prayers for more to be born in a time when few animals were domesticated. There does seem to be a need to have something replicated, as there are the layers here that aren’t in other petroglyph sites in the area.

The last photo below shows an outcropping that seems to depict people, animals, and symbols. One could speculate that the circle is a sun symbol, the giver of Life in many cultures, or perhaps a sacred shield that was used for protection during the hunt. Another possibility is that it’s a drum head, used in religious ceremonies.

More petroglyphs, China Lake, California, USAFor myself, I often include deliberate symbols in my art work, such as the use of round buttons that for me are about the Circle of Life. To someone else, they’re just round shapes. While I always enjoy what other people see in my artwork, I usually am just communing with my materials and don’t have a lot of obvious symbolism. What were the intentions of the people that made these will never be totally understood. However, I feel that the pieces speak of the undeniable need of people to communicate through art. Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

PLEASE NOTE: Tours of the petroglyphs must be made in advance. The terrain is rough and there are a number of considerations that must be obeyed, so please check the link for details before planning a visit.

Which emotions or symbols do you find that you often convey in your art work? Are you leaving records of what you were trying to say, or will you leave it to future generations to interpret what you wanted to say?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute, fill out the form below or by clicking on the “comments/no comments link” at the top of the posting, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!… and PLEASE tell like minded souls about this blog! The more readers and contributors, the more I write.

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), my healing work at www.hearthealing.net and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals) Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.

Being an Artistic Tourist – Lines and Shadows

Each artist has their own unique way of viewing the world. For me, sometimes it’s a visual image that gets my “need” to create flowing. Other times, it’s a phrase or concept that inspires me. I love it when connections are made between both realms in my mind. Today’s posting is about a happy intersection that happened recently.

Some time in the past few days, I read the phrase “artistic tourist”, and I wish I could remember who said it so that I could credit her. The concept, or at least the way it came across for me, was to be a tourist in your own environs. I interpreted it to mean we should look at familiar things with “baby fresh” eyes, and see what’s around us in new ways.

The second half of this connection between the written and the visual realms for me was seeing this photo of shadows on the snow by my friend, Robert Vibert…


He’s a fantastic photographer who really has an eye for the atmospheric qualities of light in his pics. He’s also brilliant seeing things that others don’t see. Add to that the fact that he’s also the dear soul who helps me with the technical details to keep this blog up and running, so I count him as part of my Heart Tribe. What I honed in on in this stark photo was the dark lines in the snow with the hint of what had made them at the top of the photo. (“Things half hidden” will be the topic of an upcoming blog.) So, I began looking at lines and things around my house, and the edict came from within….”Go forth and take pictures and give my readers some insight as to how I see things.” Here’s what happened along those lines, in the order that it came to me.

I began wandering around the house, trying to look for something simple that had to do with lines. I came across a brass match holder. The long, thin sticks of wood contained lots of lines but  getting them to spill outwards and separate so that they would show up as individual elements was difficult. (On retrospect, I guess I could have put something in the holder to separate them, but hindsight is so intensely accurate!) However, as I turned to the opposite side of the room, there was a bottle of scent diffuser, with lots of splayed lines made by the wicks. “Perfect item to add to the shoot”, I thought. Then, as I was carrying them both upstairs to get better light for the photograph, I saw sitting on a bureau downstairs, a wire wine bottle holder that begged to be included in the composition. I sat all three in front of a sunny window and the results are in the above photo.

As I was taking that first photo, I happened to look outside and saw the view in the photo on the left. “Cool!” I thought, “more lines and shadows”. I braved the cold and went outside and quickly captured this photo. I liked the way the weathered boards, the “window frame” plant holders that I put on the wall of the garage to resemble an outdoor room, and the shadows, both curved and straight cast by the various metal pieces on the frame combined in this pic. Not quite as stark a contrast as Robert’s inspirational photo, but I liked the result.

I hurried back inside and then, as I looked around my house for some more lines, I wandered into my big bathroom. Years ago, I had painted a mural on the wall of an outdoor scene, and I thought the metal candle holder frame in the corner of the tub contrasted nicely with the stenciled gates I had added to the woodland scene.

There weren’t any shadows in the bathroom, but I was thinking lines compared to other lines at this point. (My thinking, in case you hadn’t noticed, when I’m in this artistic flow, is not always consistent or linear, as I let my ideas go where they will.)

I took the bathroom photo, and then wandered out into the dining room and saw lots of shadows on the wall created by potted plants that are overwintering in a southern window. However, most of the shadows weren’t particularly linear so I began looking around for something to shoot in front of the white wall. I picked up a metal sculpture of palm leaves that I liked.

I set up the camera and shot what is my favorite pic from this two hour photo shoot. The thickened midribs of the palm leaves become quite linear as they extend to the outside of the frond. Then the mid-ground of the outline of the chair backs is a nice blur of soft lines. Finally, the background has subtle suggestions of lines from the aforementioned plants. I haven’t yet learned to see all the possibilities of composition in a prospective shot unless I look through the lens of the camera and see it boxed in for me. So for me, this was a happy accident of composition. I feel, it came about because I was allowing myself to play and just let my artistic sensibilities free rein.

This posting is the first in what I hope will be a series of postings on being an artistic tourist in my own environs. More thoughts will appear as I get the photos to support the story. How I’ll use them in my own arena of art quilts, I don’t know yet,  but I find that I often find more inspiration in other media than in my own. I know that I’ll be looking at things with a new eye and perhaps you’ll see some of the above photos included in future art quilts… or not.

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this piece. The registration form is just to prevent spammers, not to collect any of your information, so please take a minute, fill it out, and then share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, especially when it comes to your own special way of viewing thiings. So why not join our growing community of those who appreciate art quilts and textile arts. We’d love to hear from you!

You can see more of my art work on my web site at www.fiberfantasies.com

To find out how to buy my art work, please check out “How to Buy my Art Work” in the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.