4.23.12 - 4.30.12
The final week in residence. My cognitive time was spent reflecting on the many experiences I enjoyed & mentally preparing for my return home. I was surprised by my productivity & feel very satisfied with having completed a number of watercolors along with two tapestries. This is a first for me as I usually have difficulty feeling settled enough to focus & allow my creativity to flourish or to express it tangibly when I am not in my own studio.
My weaving time during the last week was spent finishing vermilion night so that I could cut it off the loom before making the journey home. While designing this second little tapestry, I realized it forms a harmonious dichotomy with upriver, a comparison of day & night, fluidity & solidity, vibrancy & solemnity. Below, vermilion night nearing completion.
While weaving vermilion night, I was again experimenting with creating the illusion of depth, only this time without the use of a vanishing point. Instead, subtle color gradations & texture as the cliff forms receded were utilized—the foreground cliff was woven in basket weave (over 2, under 2 instead of the regular weave of over 1, under 1) with a chunky weft bundle that included 2 strands of a fine bouclé yarn.
Where this foreground cliff splits into two “tower” forms near its top, I dropped half of the yarns from the weft bundle & changed to regular weave for the left tower with the intent to make it appear further away than the right tower. It was intriguing to see that these seemingly simple methods resulted in a visual impact quite different from & much more effective than weaving with shading techniques would have been. These two tapestries will be woven again in a larger format to be hung as a diptych for my Artist-in-Park donation to Glen Canyon NRA. The Interpretive Ranger crew I have been working with were thrilled with this news; even though the Park would probably be quite happy to accept these smaller works as is, they will be much stronger compositions as larger pieces. I am especially relishing the anticipation of reweaving upriver with shiny fibers for the river; reweaving vermilion night in a larger format will be very exciting as I may decide to incorporate further use of texture.
One last hike in Upper Cathedral Wash to marvel at more geologic magic…
Two more “at large” demos, one each at the Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center & the Carl Hayden Visitor Center. My worries of getting out of shape after a month away from the gym were mollified a bit with the lugging back & forth of the student Shannock loom. I think the thing weighs in at around 50 pounds or so; hauling it up & down the concrete stairs of the house & loading it into the Rover required a bit of muscle flexing! I am planning to finish off the little sampler woven by visitors & Park employees by mounting it on a linen covered stretcher frame to be sent to the Park for display.
It is my understanding that not only am I the first tapestry weaver to do artist residencies in our National Park system, I am the first artist in the Glen Canyon NRA AiP Program to provide a hands on experience for visitors during my demonstrations. The reactions of the children & adults who tried their hand at weaving were very compelling, as were the conversations I had with many people regarding the history of tapestry weaving as well as the differences & similarities between tapestry & Navajo weaving. I seem to have become an unofficial ambassador for tapestry weaving who happens to wear hiking boots & hang out in National Parks.
Two highlights this week were a trip to Rainbow Bridge National Monument with some of the Interpretive Ranger crew & an upriver boat ride from Lees Ferry to the base of the Glen Canyon Dam.
The visit to Rainbow Bridge is relatively easy now due to the presence of the lake. After a two hour boat ride uplake, a very short hike gets you there. Prior to the lake’s existence, one either had to travel by boat three days downriver from another location to the mouth of the canyon & then hike into the canyon seven miles, or complete an arduous journey that was difficult for even horses to manage overland through the Navajo Reservation for several days to reach it. Rainbow Bridge is a natural, massive sandstone bridge; at the time of this writing it is believed to be the largest in the world, nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty. It is sacred to at least five Native American Nations & has been visited by some noted figures in history—Teddy Roosevelt & Zane Grey among them. Visitors are strongly encouraged to respect cultural beliefs when visiting the site.
My last day in residence began with an upriver boat ride courtesy of Ray Skeet, a GCNRA employee who has been working for the Park Service for decades & who is an accomplished artist in his own right. About ten years ago, Dennis & I took a six day Colorado River trip downriver from Lees Ferry, but the upriver environment is very different from the volatile & extreme nature of the Colorado downriver where it enters first Marble & then the Grand Canyon. Between the dam & Lees Ferry, the river is very placid without rapids because the elevation does not drop quickly. There are campsites for boaters & paddlers who make the leisurely trip from dam to ferry, & the river is studded with fly fisherman. There are towering cliffs, magnificent in their red ochre massiveness & adorned with delicate hanging gardens of maidenhair fern where water from the lake is invading the rock layers & seeping out to the river; the Colorado dammed, yet still seeking to flow despite man’s concrete interferences.
I had a river’s eye view of the Horseshoe Bend formation, which appeared surprisingly small seen from this vantage point. Viewing it from the cliffs above allows you to see the formation in its entirety; the river view is extremely encapsulated & deceiving. Even though it is really hard to grasp the size of the geological formations & judge distance in this voluminous environment, as I looked up to see the cliffs I got a really good idea of the scale when I saw the pinhead sized dot of the red jacket worn by a person peering over the edge from the overlook above (shudder!).
There are two areas along the river where visitors can see stunningly beautiful petroglyphs; unfortunately they have at times born the brunt of the careless & selfish acts of those who think vandalizing sites such as these is a “cool” part of their vacation. One such numbskull in particular found out that a felony offense when you get caught doing senseless & disrespectful things such as this just might add a little unexpected expense to one’s vacation. Petroglyphs are so lovely & mysterious, generating many deep thoughts & questions… there is really no need for additions, but there should be respect & reverence. After all, how would we feel if another race of people showed up & started carving their initials onto our own historical buildings, public art, or gravestones?
The Descending Sheep panel has images of bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, & motifs that have not yet been identified…
The Bullet Panel has compelling figures & more sheep. It actually has an official name that I cannot recall, but you can guess, unfortunately, why it is called this & even more unfortunately it has received far more desecrating vandalism than the Descending Sheep panel…
At the foot of the dam, the Carl Hayden Visitor Center hangs from its perch on the cliff’s edge. A giant controversy still exists over the damming of the Colorado… as lake levels drop & silt piles up behind the dam, many are clamoring for the dam to be removed. My personal feeling is a wish that the dam had never been built, but it was a different era, with different mores & values. The building of the dam became a powerful lesson to carefully examine what might be lost in the rush to build, conquer, control, & exploit, a lesson which should perhaps be revisited; it symbolizes the beginning of the environmental movement as we know it today. Will the Colorado ever run free again? Only time will tell.
An awareness has come to me during my Glen Canyon residency that the time I have spent working on the condor tapestry has greatly improved my weaving skills, both basic & complex. I have reached another level, which I really can’t explain, but I can definitely feel & see. A surprise, since I thought perhaps I would stagnate a bit working on one large tapestry for so long. A transition is forming, somewhere beneath & beyond. I think it will surface more fully once I have completed Grand Journey, delivered her to the North Rim, & begin my next commission—the two tapestries I will weave for Glen Canyon NRA. But for now, my condor is calling me to return to her.
Another important realization is that my soul needs to be fed regularly with time spent in nature; this is something I have sensed even as a child, but which sometimes gets forgotten or pushed aside amidst the busyness of life. I think this is true for all people on some level, not just artists or nature lovers. It is important to go outside, to look at green growing things, to see mountains embossing the sky, to hear wind & water rushing, to see expanses of ocean, plain, or sky stretching to the horizon, to feel the sun, to taste the rain, to inhale the fragrance of plants & earth, to see creatures flapping, soaring, running, crawling, swimming. To remember that we exist on a living, breathing, evolving planet.
Although some of us may be fortunate enough to experience these things simply by stepping outside, more & more people are living in urban areas & do not have ready access to the nurturing effects of nature. We are extremely fortunate to have protected areas in the US where wildness remains for any who wish to experience it—as of this writing 58 National Parks, 101 National Monuments, 42 National Recreation Areas, 155 National Forests, & 20 National Grasslands, not to mention the scores of state forests & parks, county & city parks that abound across the country. Wherever you may live, think about finding one of these places near you & do what you can to help keep it intact & protected, either by visiting, buying a pass, or becoming a member of an organization that helps protect or manage it… get out there!
This work by lyn hart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.