Rock Art Rocks!

I have always been a huge fan of aboriginal art, especially that of the ancestral Puebloans, formerly known as the Anasazi. Whether it be pictographs (paintings) or petroglyphs (images cut into stone), they all leave me mesmerized. I could gaze at this art for hours.

When I look at this ancient creativity, I feel transported to another time. I try to imagine the artist. Was it a man or a woman or a child? What message was that person trying to send? Was it meant to be spiritual, or a warning, or informational, or simply decorative? Why did he or she choose this particular spot to work on?  (More to the point, with all the flat rock surfaces throughout Utah, why is there not more rock art? I want more!)

There are several opportunities to view rock art in the Moab, Utah area. The first I got to see was this petroglyph of longhorn sheep and men on horseback that is located behind the Wolfe Ranch in Arches National Park. This, to me, says that people have worked and hunted on this land for centuries. We humans do have a tendency to want to make our marks.

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The next opportunity was not far from the park’s entrance. It is a panel called Courthouse Wash. Sadly, it’s very faded, because some fools decided to vandalize it, and park rangers had to clean it up. This removed a lot of the stunning pigment. (Why do so many people enjoy destroying things? Why? I will never understand that urge.) Click the link in this paragraph to see images of it before it faded.

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This panel depicts all manner of strangely shaped people, some with horns. If anything makes me think we’ve been visited by beings from other planets, it’s this art. Were these their Gods? Or were these peyote-influenced visions? Perhaps they were attempting to scare off intruders. It’s all been lost to time. Beneath this panel was a petroglyph of still more other-worldly creatures. I kept thinking that I was standing on the very spot where the artists once stood. I could have reached out and touched this work, but I didn’t want to damage it.

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Next, thanks to my highly observant brother-in-law, who saw a notation on the edge of the park map that said, “Petroglyphs, 5 miles,” we went on an adventure down Scenic Byway 279, toward Potash. That was fun. We passed dozens of rock climbers scaling the cliffs, and then finally reached a spot where they are not allowed to climb for very good reason. I’ve never seen such a long stretch of petroglyphs in my life, including some that look like a string of paper dolls, and another that was a hand print. Amazing. I will leave you with my photographs, which definitely do NOT do the Potash Panel justice. Enjoy!

(While doing research for this post, I discovered that there are dinosaur tracks near the Potash Panel that I completely missed! That’s what I get for not doing my homework. There is also a very impressive bear petroglyph that we couldn’t find for some reason, but you can see it in the Potash Panel link.)

 

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Virtual Influence

I just got a flu shot. I usually wait until I see it marked on my calendar on October 1, but one of my friends in the virtual world of Second Life mentioned they were already available. No time like the present.

As I got into my car and drove to the pharmacy and then got the shot and came home, it occurred to me that my actions were being influenced by someone in Second Life whom I most likely will never meet face to face. It is almost as if someone in the cyber world were sitting at a keyboard somewhere, directing my movements. Highly disconcerting. Maybe I’m the avatar and my stunningly attractive cartoon character is the real thing. I could live with that.

Then I began thinking about all the other ways that Second Life, Facebook, and even comments from this blog have influenced me over the years.

  • I have met four of my virtual friends face to face, and those were all amazingly gratifying experiences.
  • I often get book recommendations from friends on-line, and that has given me hours of reading pleasure.
  • Some of my favorite “go to” people for advice are people that I’ve never, or very rarely, been in the same room with.
  • Second Life gave me the courage to be a fractal artist, and now I sell my work on Zazzle, in the form of prints, mugs, cards, and business cards, among other things.
  • The feedback from people who have read my blog has caused my confidence to soar.
  • Unfortunately a hostile comment from a troll can also put me in a foul mood.
  • I would have felt a great deal more isolated when I moved across the country to a city where I didn’t know a soul if it weren’t for my on-line friends.
  • Some of the ridiculous stuff I read on Facebook has caused me to strengthen my moral, spiritual, and political convictions.

My on-line contacts have made me laugh and cry and love and trust and get angry and learn… in other words, to live fully. And for that I will be forever grateful.

The virtual me.
The virtual me.

Sending Art into the World

When you are a creative person, the art that you make feels like it’s a part of you. When you sell it or give it away, it feels like you’re sending a child off to college. You still have a connection, but you know that for all intents and purposes that child has embarked on a life of its own.

Recently I got to hear what actually became of some of my work, and it blew me away.

In the virtual world known as Second Life, I have an annual Christmas tradition where I create an ornament out of one of my fractals, and give it to people who like my art. So I created this year’s ornament, sent it out, and a few minutes later I got a message from a woman whom I had never met. She thanked me for the ornament, and then told me that she has been carrying the one I gave out in 2009 almost daily since then. She said it appeared in many of her photographs, and sure enough, she sent me a few and there it was, sharing a variety of significant moments in her life. That ornament, she said, was sort of a lucky charm for her, and it had been with her in good times and in bad.

I cannot even begin to tell you how flattered I was to hear this. The idea that something I created had been out there in the world for the past 4 years, playing such a major part in someone else’s life renders me speechless.

When you send art into the world, you have no idea how it might impact others. That’s the most amazing thing about being an artist.

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A few of my fractal ornaments from years past.

“You’re never too old to live your dreams.”

Thank you, Diana Nyad, for reminding us all of this the other day, when you swam for about 53 hours from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64.

This amazing feat reminded me of the many other people I have heard of who have done incredible things at an advanced age.

  • At my last graduation ceremony, one of my fellow students was in his 70’s.
  • Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 69.
  • Mavis Lindgren ran her first marathon at age 70.
  • An ex-boyfriend’s 80 year old mother recently went white water rafting down the Colorado River.
  • At age 61, and weighing only 99 pounds, Gandhi walked almost 200 miles to protest the British salt tax.
  • My boyfriend’s delightful uncle, in his 70’s, takes advanced math correspondence courses and taught himself how to do stained glass and pottery. He now has his own art studio in his garage.
  • As a Learn to Read volunteer, I have encountered many seniors who have chosen to learn to read for the first time in their lives.
  • Grandma Moses, the renowned American folk artist, did not begin to paint seriously until she was 76. One of her paintings eventually sold for 1.2 million dollars.
  • Reverend Scott Alexander, who lead the church I used to attend, rode his bike 3,300 miles across the country last summer to raise $50,000 and raise awareness about hunger. He is 63 years old.
  • Colonel Sanders was 66 when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa when he was 76, and that’s after suffering in prison for 26 years of his life.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder, of “Little House on the Prairie” fame, did not publish her first book until she was 64, and continued to do so until she was 76.

So when Diana Nyad walked out of the ocean on shaky legs, sunburned, exhausted, and with her mouth full of sores from the salt water, and said, “You’re never too old to live your dreams,” she wasn’t kidding. And to make it even more amazing, she had tried, and failed, 4 times before.

Never give up. If there’s something you want to do, like travel or learn or create, don’t let your age stand in your way. Use Diana Nyad’s mantra: Find a way.

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Diana Nyad. [Image credit: nytimes.com]

Cosmic Pinball

I am always amazed at how the most random encounters can change the trajectory of one’s life. It’s as if we are all pinballs in a great machine, bouncing off this or that obstacle, and being propelled to greater and more dizzying heights. You never know when you wake up in the morning if your life is going to change for good or ill by the people you meet. In a strange way, I love this about the universe.

Here’s an example. I used to be very active in the art community in the virtual world called Second Life. This gave me the confidence to become a fractal artist. You can see my work here. Because of this, I met a young man who lives on the other side of the world in Viet Nam. I helped him get his first art show in Second Life, and we became good friends. I am very impressed by this young man’s talent. Not only does he do drawings and photography and 3D virtual sculptures, but he also writes quite well. you can see his work at his deviantart page.

He’s 19, and wants to study abroad. One night while we were chatting on facebook, I mentioned the Savannah College of Art and Design, because I had always wanted to go there. He looked into it, and is now applying. So there you have it. A random and improbable encounter between a 48 year old in America and a 19 year old in Viet Nam has sent him in the direction of Savannah, Georgia, a place he had never heard of before this. I hope it works out, because my young friend has an amazing talent and a bright future.

So, without further ado, here is some of the amazing art of my dear friend Cong Le Nguyen. I’m proud to know him, and I’m glad our paths intersected. Enjoy!

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