Counting Sheep, Petroglyph Art

Whether you’re an enthusiast of Southwest art or you feel the pull and connection to the past and ancient cultures, this vibrant, low bas relief will whisk you back to the dusty, arid lands of the US Four Corners region and the inventive Anasazi who lived there.

"Counting Sheep," low bas relief in plaster and powder pigments. Original and prints for sale.

 

This is the piece that started it all . . . at least my fascination with creating petroglyph art. My inspiration came from Anasazi images found at Newspaper Rock in Utah. The composition itself comes from my love of telling a story in one image and from my sense of humor. I like thinking about the world as it used to be, and then adding a little twist. 

This piece in particular showcases the brilliance of the Anasazi artists, who chose cliff faces with a high iron content as their canvases. The exterior face is oxidized (rusted) along with some microbial activity, to create a dark surface called “desert varnish.” When ancient artists carefully carved into the surface, they exposed the “unvarnished” rock underneath so the images appear in brilliant red-oxide. The brilliance of the images slowly fades over time as new “desert varnish” slowly forms.

Shaman figures, such as the one laying down in my  piece above, are often depicted securing help from the spirit world for the benefit of the community.

There is some surprising controversy regarding the image and meaning of the bighorn sheep. The meaning of many petroglyphs is often vague at best, but the two camps here think they represent food resources, or they were a metaphor for travel. Many animals represented in petroglyphs carried a symbolic meaning as well as a practical one, such as the bear.  Why couldn’t the same be true of the bighorn images?

Whatever the interpretation, the differing characteristics of the many, many bighorn sheep petroglyphs are delightful in their energy and style.

I created this piece by applying multiple layers of plaster and using a hand-made form to fashion the images. I then color the plaster with powder pigments for an authentic look of stone.