|Bryce Canyon, July 31, 2011|
My first experience of the American desert was the Mojave, which conforms much more closely to the idea of the desert that we carry around in our heads from media portrayals: sand, rock, scrubby vegetation, aridity, emptiness. I became entranced by the Mojave when I first travelled through it in 1997, taking the rental car to Death Valley, Twentynine Palms, Palm Springs. Near Twentynine Palms, the Joshua Tree park is filled with that eponymous organism, their spiky trunks with their sprawling limbs and knobby, grapefruit like appendages twisting and turning against the flat sky. After you drive across fields of Joshua Trees, you arrive at the rock formations, aggregations of smooth edged boulders that from a distance resemble piles of pebbles placed carefully by an absorbed child. One or two of these boulders can stand as tall as a house. The sensation of being overawed by these rock formations, physically overwhelmed by their size and their presence, was something new for me.
|Blind contour drawings, Bryce Canyon, 2011|
|Me drawing in Zion Canyon, August 1, 2011|
And yet when I turned away to walk back to the car, I felt satisfied, like I'd seen something beautiful and worthwhile. It doesn't take long to work out why that is. I'm affected by the awe-inspiring size, but also the colours, the textures, the variety of shapes, the different masses and volumes -- basically all the things that I appreciate in painting and sculpture, mixed in with the added ingredients of wonder at the unimaginable stretches of geological time that it took for the wind and the water to create (or leave behind) these objects.
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