This summer my wife and I took an amazing trip through the American West and visited six national and state parks. It was an awe-inspiring journey through landscapes of incalculable wonder and beauty. While one couldn’t help the sense that the surrounding environment was a static and unchanging time capsule of a place, nothing could be further from the truth. Areas such as Capital Reef, Zion and Moab are in continual states of motion and change, and are as dynamic as they are beautiful.
While these landscapes and natural environments experience a constant and fluid rate of metamorphosis, the story of its many occupants and inhabitants over millennia greatly adds to its rich dynamism.
On the sixth day of our trip while heading out of Capitol Reef toward Goblin Valley in Utah, a high-up (and almost completely hidden) section of rock along the winding out-road caught my eye. We had just visited a gated-off petroglyph site in the area, so my eyes were wide and freshly trained to detect these types of details, even at a distance. I decided to pull over, put the car hazard lights on and investigate. The area was high up on the rock, without a path and completely unmarked by any map or itinerary. I was ecstatic at the idea of discovering something for myself, so I thought it would be very much worth the time if I was right about what I thought I saw.
With my wife waiting in the car for me to complete yet another compulsive preoccupation, I ascended the rocks toward the area. Upon getting to the top I discovered what was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen: a rock wall that was absolutely covered in the ancient inscriptions of archaic people who once called the valley home. After taking several videos and photographs of the wall art (and a lot of huffing and puffing), I descended back toward the car with my amazement quickly transforming into pointed inspiration.
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After my experience at the petroglyph sites and further researching the area’s archaic peoples that created them, I was inspired to create one for my current series of work: Modern Icon. One particularly striking petroglyph in the Southern Utah area that dates to the first millennium CE is what has informally come to be known as Moab Man. This enigmatic image is an anthropomorphic being which has no known representation or concrete meaning. Daily life and matters of the spiritual are frequently found to be the subjects of petroglyph art in the area, and one might infer a spiritualistic meaning given that the features and characteristics of Moab Man seem far from ordinary.
My inspiration coalesced into a wall-hung, sculptural replica of the famous Moab Man but with a new, conceptual element. In addition to replicating the process of petroglyph creation (embedding a recessed image into a hard surface by picking and carving), I added two mirrors where one could assume a pair of eyes might otherwise be. Archaic art is part of the human story and reflects back to us something deep and curious about ourselves. Like other works in this series, placing the viewer inside the eyes of the petroglyph acts as a catalyst for experiencing this connection.
"Moab Man" 30" x 24" x 3" Mixed Media