Ranger Kathryn's Arches

February 13, 2012

Non-conforming artists

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Throughout time, artists who flaunt traditional approaches have been both reviled and praised. I wonder if that has always been the case? Would a millennium have changed human behavior?

On a recent hike in search of petroglyphs in the Moab area, my findings led me to ask such questions. The first panel shows a classic rendering of an abundant animal in Utah rock art, the bighorn sheep. Notice their short thick necks, graceful parenthesis-shaped horns, solid pecked bodies and characteristic single-file arrangement. I especially like the cloven-hoof detail, which can be seen better if you click to enlarge.

 Utah petroglyphs showing bighorns

Only a few feet away, on another part of the boulder, stood this artwork. Based on its deeply curved horns, it’s obviously a bighorn ram, but how many differences can you pick out from the previous glyphs? Whose neck is that? What is the shape inside its torso? Is it supposed to have feet? Was this artist having fun, expressing his uniqueness, or faithfully recording his observations?

Please leave your comments. Have fun with this. It’s okay to speculate…

Does this artist march to the beat of a different drummer?


  1. The second image speaks of a less mature, though still talented, artist. The exaggerated proportions and the placing of the skinny legs remind me of kindergarten art, but the carefully etched horns suggest some degree of talent.
    The empty box inside the body is also something a kid might put there since they do envision the world differently from adults.
    Interesting. I wonder if the tribe put any restrictions on who could ‘post’ images on their rocks?

    Comment by leroque — February 13, 2012 @ 9:40 am | Reply

    • My understanding is that typically it was select adult males who were allowed to decorate the rock. Many professionals support the idea that the local shaman would be a main artist. We don’t know about young people, but one place in Horseshoe Canyon causes me to ask whether the adults gave some paint to the littler ones and said, “Go play…”

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — February 13, 2012 @ 9:50 am | Reply

  2. The long neck depicts an ability to find food and the big body supports his/her success. The void in the body is an indication that it is again time to eat. 🙂

    Comment by Pk — February 13, 2012 @ 10:08 am | Reply

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