Thursday, November 10, 2011

Early Visitors, Shiprock

Shiprock, photo courtesy of Don Joslin

On one of the artist's forums that I frequent, each month one of us hosts a "challenge", and provides photos for us to use as reference for a painting.   Though I'm not keen on working from photos, sometimes it's fun to see what you can do with them.  I've been to this area, and that helps to get more authentic (I hope!) feel to it.
Shiprock is a sacred place to the Navajo... I can just imagine their first view of this magnificent formation. It figures prominantly in their mythology and culture. Here's an article from Wikipedia:

Shiprock (NavajoTsé Bitʼaʼí, "rock with wings" or "winged rock"[5]) is a rock formation rising nearly 1,583 feet (482.5 m) above the high-desert plain on the Navajo Nation in San Juan CountyNew Mexico, USA. It has a peak elevation of 7,177 feet (2,187.5 m) above the sea level. It lies about 12 by 20 miles (19 by 32 km) southwest of the town of Shiprock, which is named for the peak. Governed by the Navajo Nation, the formation is in the Four Corners region and plays a significant role in Navajo religion, mythology and tradition. It is located in the center of the Ancient Pueblo People or Ancestral Puebloan civilization, a prehistoric Native American culture of the Southwest United States often referred to as the Anasazi. Shiprock is a point of interest for rock climbers and photographers and has been featured in several film productions and novels. It is the most prominent landmark in northwestern New Mexico.[citation needed]

The Navajo name Tsé Bitʼaʼí, "rock with wings" or "winged rock", for the peak refers to the legend of the great bird that brought them from the north to their present lands.[6][7] The name "Shiprock" or Shiprock Peak or Ship Rock derives from the peak's resemblance to an enormous 19th-century clipper ship. However Anglos first called the peak "The Needle," a name given to the topmost pinnacle by Captain J.F. McComb in 1860.[7] United States Geological Survey maps indicate that the name "Ship Rock" dates from the 1870s.[6][7][edit]

[edit]Religious and cultural significance

The peak and surrounding land are of great religious and historical significance to the Navajo people. It is mentioned in many Navajo myths and legends. Foremost is the peak's role as the agent that brought the Navajo to the southwest. According to one legend, after being transported from another place, the Navajos lived on the monolith, "coming down only to plant their fields and get water."[7] One day, the peak was struck by lightning, obliterating the trail and leaving only a sheer cliff, and stranding the women and children on top to starve. The presence of people on the peak is forbidden "for fear they might stir up the chį́įdii (ghosts), or rob their corpses."[7]

So, my first thought when I saw the photo was, "I wonder what the natives thought when they encountered this formation for the first time."  It must've been awe inspiring to them.  So, pulling out my artistic license, I painted in some of these early visitors.
Early Visitors, Shiprock 7x7 oil/panel

Working in a square format requires good planning for composition. I needed to balance the various elements.. figures, mountain, and land masses. The visual weight of the two riders, is balanced by the other figure and horse, and the darker eroded gully.  These both are balanced by the presence of the rock itself. I think its working.  

1 comment:

Judy P. said...

This looks great- mystery and ghostly mood.