Journey West USA

Installation at the School of Art, Aberystwyth Universty. M.A. Postgraduate Exhbition 2012.

Extract from diary Easter 2011, trip west across USA

The work for my final MA show at the School of Art,  Aberystwyth University was  inspired by a trip west from Alberquerque to San Francisco.

Journey West USA Thought Map

We start from New Mexico:  ‘North and west off the main highway we eventually arrive at a canyon called Los Frijoles not far from the Rio Grand. Once in the park area the road falls deep into the wooded valley and the visitor centre is hidden in the trees. We find a picnic area and park next to a convenient table alongside a small river. Everyone is hungry. Various birds and squirrels appear. Josh and I go to the toilets in the main building. Before I come out I hear Josh say that he has found a snake. Just a few yards from the building is a three foot long yellow and brown snake slithering towards a pile of logs.Nancy tells us it is a Bull Snake.

Blood Ladder Tissue Map 1

At the centre are a number of birds of prey being shown off by their keepers, including a falcon, a sparrow hawk and a very small owl. The trail through the valley floor leads us to the ancient Indian reservation, now a site of historic interest. Numerous signs along the way warn us not to stray off the path and also not to damage the ruins. Various low stone walls, presumably the foundations of houses dot the sides of the path. High above us in the massive cliff to our right we can see dark holes. These are caves in which the Indians lived. A few have wooden ladders leading up to them and we are allowed to climb up and enter.

The caves are small and round with light holes carved out of the rock at various angles. A few have paintings or 'petroglyphs' painted around them. The ladders are tapered and very long, post holes are carved into the rocks to accommodate them. The cliff face is peppered with these dwellings and as we work our way along the valley we discover more and more with some getting very high. The most impressive being at the very far end of the trail with a very large cave opening out across the top of the valley providing us with a spectacular view of the river and the valley below. There is a chamber beneath this cave which can be entered through a hole in the ceiling. Inside it is very dark and dusty. Apparently women would weave in here. There are loom holes in the floor. The climb down is steep and the air is cooler now as we descend.

White House
It is such an amazing experience to be standing in these homes and trying to imagine what living and working here must have been like. John tells us a little about the Pueblo Indians who were hunter gatherers.  They grew corn, maize and beans and the building around and below the caves were used to store the products. It is also wonderful to see the marks made on the walls representing the animals and the activities of the people who lived here. A totally different way of expressing and communicating ideas and thoughts through art. What must they have been thinking when they made these decorative and powerful images? What were the pictures for?

Back at the visitor centre there is more information about the site;
'Spiritually our ancestors still live in Bandelier. You see reminders of their presence here- their homes, their kivas, and their petroglyphs. As you walk in their footsteps, value the earth beneath you and show everything the same respect we do when we re-visit this sacred place.'
affiliated Pueblo Committee.

Our journey west starts here. I am still thinking about it.



Links - Oriel Queenshall Gallery

Oriel Queenshall Gallery