Lost Way of Stones
had a class of ritual specialists known as bighorn sheep
sheep dreamers were especially adept at charming game animals.
Hence, these were shamans of the hunt." (1)
Lost Way of Stones is built around indigenous rock art
found in Southern California, including
that of the Chumash Indians who lived mainly along the
Santa Barbara Channel; and
by Shoshonean peoples that is located
on the Naval Air Weapons Station, near Death
Valley, CA., where, contrasting
human creativity with its destructive shadow, it is "one
of the most spectacular concentrations of rock art sites in North
and monochrome pictographs were painted onto sandstone,
pectroglyphs tapped into dark
basalt, art and nature exchanging minerals and patinas of meaning.
Archaeologists argue over interpretation; but like the
Philosopher's Stone, which does
not "allow itself
to be held in meaning,"(3) there
is no single resolution, only turning and re-turning.
study of Amerindian rock art began during my tenure at
the University of New Mexico's Center for Southwest Research. Cataloging
rock art of the Southwest also whet my
Aurignacian cave art. While the work discovered in the caves
a high level of aesthetic sophistication that must have been
developing over millennia, most rock art, examples of which
are found in over 160 countries, while usually technically cruder
are more symbolically varied and culturally evocative. Here Homo
sapiens entered the picture,
and creating, naturally and supernaturally, their cultures and themselves.
"Thus, all the fine points of human psychology end by expressing
in insentient rock. Human legend thus finds its illustrations in inanimate
nature, as if stone were inscribed through a natural process. This would
make poets our first paleographers—and matter itself profoundly
the thousands of years before being rediscovered, cave art was
protected because the caves, arduous to negotiate, weren't lived
in, but probably accessed only for special occasions, such as initiations
numinous world. What was perhaps the most sacred art was made in
the deepest interior. Eventually
abandoned and forgotten, their entrances were hidden behind
foliage and debris.
the other hand, for
him the hoped-for purpose, the sacred task, of painting was to
tune in to the invisible—rather in the
same manner an anatomical diagram tunes in to the invisible
functioning of a living body. And why did he want to do this? Because rock
art is continuously exposed to weathering, and protected
from vandalism only by the
of reaching it. Archaeologist Paul
Bahn writes that "it
was the process of journeying to a location and leaving an image
which counted, rather than the image itself, its appearance, degree
of completeness, or durability."(5) However,
I would argue that the journey taken and the efficiency
of the images made are entangled.
this is where I arrived, knowing that this place is not a unique
place, but that all places are inclusive of countless other places.
addition to the scientific practice of archaeology, Christine Finn
suggests that "a poetic interpretation of archaeology—and
by that I mean one that moves into the metaphysical to consider
the essence of a 'thing'—should be included in the armory
of interpretative tools available to the archaeologist."(6)
for how digital literary art might
relate to archaeological discourse, British
archaeologist Christopher Tilley takes a relevant course:
we can experiment with organisation of the text itself — the
manner in which we inscribe words and
statements on to a page. Second we can attempt to break the types
of power relation set up between the writer and the reader in texts
as constituted at present by attempting to write 'producer' as
opposed to 'consumer' texts. Third we can self-reflexively examine
ourselves, our subjectivity as writers in the texts that we produce.(
the page is a panel, the relationship between writer and
reader is open to communication, and the artist works
in a self-reflective environment
of meditation, research and redaction.
with a vision of 80 panels, I soon realized that both texts and
images request what media
N. Katherine Hayles calls "deep attention," as
opposed to "hyper attention (which) excels at negotiating
rapidly changing environments in which multiple foci compete
its disadvantage is impatience with focusing for long periods
of time on a noninteractive object..."(8)
of the eight "patterned
body anthropomorphs" below links to five
panels, making a total of 40 texts juxtaposed
with 40 palimpsests. There are also references and, as
trope of invagination, "a fragment
of text planted within the paragraphic
its continuity and disturbing its literal meaning," is
also in play.(9)
Lost Way of Stones seeks
to contribute to rock art studies what, because of specialization,
most archaeologists cannot. Proceeding
from the assumption that
all honest endeavors add to our knowledge
of who we are,
thus, who we may someday be, this work can
only begin to explore the vast range of research
rock art studies and accordant fields.
Panels 1-5 |
| Panels 31-35
Garfinkel, D.R. Austin, D. Earle and H. Williams (Wokod), “Myth,
Ritual and Rock Art: Coso Decorated Animal-Humans and the Animal
Master.” May 19, 2009.
2- D.S. Whitley, A
Guide to Rock Art Sites: Southern California and Southern Nevada.
Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing, 2001.
3- J.Hillman, "Concerning the Stone:
Alchemical Images of the Gold." Sphinx 5 (1993).
for him the hoped-for
purpose: J. Berger, “Seeing Through Lies: Jean-Michel
Basquiat, Saboteur." Harper’s Magazine, April,
4- G. Bachelard, Earth and Reveries of Will. Dallas: Dallas Institute
Bahn, Prehistoric Rock Art: Polemics and Progress.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
6- C.A. Finn, "Poetry and Archaeology." In, J.H. Jameson,
Jr., J.E. Ehrenhard and C.A. Finn, Editors, Ancient Muses: Archaeology
and the Arts. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003.
7- C. Tilley, “On Modernity and Archaeological Discourse.” http://archaeology.kiev.ua/meta/tilley.html
8- N.K. Hayles, "Hyper and
Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes." Profession,
9- J. Weishaus,
"The Gateless Gate." http://www.cddc.vt.edu/host/weishaus/Gate-R/Intro-R.htm
The Lost Way of Stones
is dedicated to those ancient unknown artists whose work exemplifies
of us all.
Thank you to:
My wife, Susan Rowland, for her love, encouragement, insightful
Ginette Paris, for the generous loan of her home: where
this project began.
Alan Liu, and The University
of California, Santa Barbara, for their fellowship.
Karl Kempton, who provided valuable research
and the spirit of the place.
As always, there are many others I wish to thank.You know who