August 29, 2015

Underworld

Underworld
By Jeanette Hart-Mann
August 29, 2015

Peering out of the Alcove (photo jhm)

Horseshoe Canyon is technically part of western Canyonlands National Park, but it is cut off from that playground of mountain bikers, backpackers, all-terrain vehicles, rock climbers, rafters, and sportsters, etc, etc. by the Green River and a complex series of elevated canyons, buttes, and plateaus….and really rough roads. And thank the gods for that.

In this remote, inhospitable, secluded, and quiet place you are on your own. Hidden in plain sight and not to be found via the traditional long view of the western sublime. The canyon cuts down, down, down, into the underworld of the San Rafael Desert. And you don’t know your there until you step over the edge and into a series of intricate canyons reclaiming their spring fed riparian bottoms. Unless of course you are a raven.

I have been here many times before and perhaps even many times before that. To walk the canyon and spend time with the plants along the intermittent wash and visit the many historic rock paintings, which are somehow surprising, shocking and soothing all at the same time. The first time I visited Horseshoe was in 1999 with a great mentor and painters painter, John Wenger. He brought his students to this site to think deeply about these paintings and compare the makers of these figurations of story, ceremony, and time with the contemporary painters we wanted to be.

What’s ironic is these paintings did shape who I am as an artist. But not by making me into a painter. Rather these profoundly intricate articulations opened up my perception to the art of life as it is at play in the world. Active and in context with its environment, its time and space, and with all the many who become both its reader and author.

While visiting today, Paula asked me, “Do you see something different every time you come here?” Yes, I suppose I do. This time the canyon was alive like I had never seen it before. The floating figures seemed super bright and were looking out at the lush and vibrant trees, shrubs, and grasses. The wet sand rippled across the floor of the canyon and pools of water gathered the birds, butterflies, frogs, lizards, tracks, and us as we walked.

Hiking into the canyon (photo jhm)
High wall paintings (photo jhm)
High wall paintings (photo jhm)
Low western paintings (photo jhm)
Alcove (photo jhm)
Alcove paintings and last century tags (photo jhm)
Group lunch in the Alcove (photo jhm)
Group performance in the Alcove (photo jhm)
Looking at the Great Gallery (photo jhm)
Section of the Great Gallery
Melon cutters (photo jhm)
Melon eaters (photo jhm)

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