Monday, November 2, 2015

Cerbat Mountains Rock Art - The Good and the Bad

First off, thanks so much for the supportive comments and emails I've received lately. It feels good to be back to posting my normal stuff.
I'll start this post with the end first. Please examine the following photo. The colorful mural in the middle of the photo is certainly beautiful and the artist is clearly talented. However, does it belong in the same area as a sacred native american rock art site? Further, does it belong on the SAME rocks as ancient petroglyphs (check out the middle right of the photo)?  I REALLY don't think it does, but apparently some folks in the local area don't agree. 
please embiggen

The Good
The Cerbat (mountain sheep) Mountains lie in the northwestern part of Arizona. These petroglyphs were probably created by the Hualapai (people of the tall pines), or possibly an earlier group (no one really knows). This site isn't very large or elaborate, nor is it very well preserved. It is however, very old.

A few miles in the background is the little ghost town/mining camp/artist colony of Chloride, Arizona. It is the oldest mining camp/town in the state. It's called a ghost town (for the tourists), but even if it isn't, it's still worth spending some time there.

The Ubiquitous Bighorn Sheep 

 Yes, unfortunately, those round marks are from bullet impacts.

The Bad
In the mid-1960's, a well known artist (Ray Purcell), created brightly colored images on rocks in the exact same location as the above petroglyphs. In some cases, side by side. Vandalism? Ignorance? Arrogance? Clearly (and unfortunately), somebody comes up here on an occasional basis and touches up the murals.

Do I think Ray Purcell's art is beautiful? Yes, I do.
Do I think it is TOTALLY out of place here and should not be touched up? Yes, I do.

The discovery of gold and silver (and other things) had an absolutely terrible and inhumane impact on the indigenous people of the area. To disregard and disfigure their sacred places, is like rubbing salt into the wounds. Maybe it's just me that is bothered by this, but I hope that isn't the case....

I hope I don't get any negative comments from people in Chloride because of this (remember my post on the town of Needles?). Especially not before I do a couple of posts on the actual town.



  1. He probably didn't really think about it before he began. Probably thought it was a cool idea at the time. They are impressive, just in the wrong spot.
    Really glad you're back, Pat!

  2. Yes, the artwork is beautiful, but definitely in the wrong place. Here's what I think about when I see this: the modern artist's work is about himself; the ancient petroglyphs are not about the artist but about his/her world.

  3. Alex J. Cavanaugh - Thanks Alex! It is good to be back. This stuff is for sure in the wrong spot. Surprisingly, there isn't really any "regular" vandalism in the area.

    Robin Andrea - You said that much better than I did. It's like he was trying to top what was already there.

  4. I agree with you in every respect. Those pained rocks, while beautiful, seem way out of place among the hills.

    Good to see you back.

  5. It is very colorful but it sure does look out of place!

  6. I agree! This work is a shame to be done on such an ancient site!

  7. Glad to see you back, Pat.... AND--I totally agree with you about where 'art' is appropriate and where it is NOT....

    Hope you are feeling well.

  8. Welcome back, Pat!! Good to see you online again!! I do SO agree with you - this "art" is totally out of place. Unfortunately, there is a lot of "out of place" things these days. Hope you have a great week!!

  9. I agree with you.... it's out of place, particularly given the archaeological and cultural value of the petroglyphs.

  10. i don’t think these paintings belong in the natural world at all, not on the rocks. they disturb the balance of nature.

  11. Seeing this makes me very sad. I hope it's ignorance because I can't imagine anyone wanting to deface historical places in our beautiful country. The pictures really are beautiful.

  12. I agree - it's beautiful art, but this isn't where it belongs.

  13. Great to see you back! I'm so happy you are getting out there, are well enough again to do so, and once again doing the work that you love. I agree with you and all the other commenters. It is disrespectful and the site is so defaced. I think photography is the best ways to preserve and honor these spaces. Keep up the great work and once again, Welcome Back! Happy Trails!

  14. I love the artwork, but the location is totally inappropriate. Perhaps someday it will also be considered an artifact from a time gone by.

  15. Good to see you back in action Pat. While I agree that those painted murals should not be there, it is not for the reasons you cite. The painter may have some skill as a draughtsman, but he has no talent as an artist. These murals are execrable trash.

  16. I don't think they belong in that spot, either. It's like someone deciding to paint landscapes on cathedral walls or or Muslim temples. The art is good, but it's in the wrong place. The artist could have done it all on canvas and had a good show, for that matter. It's hard to believe that artist doesn't realize that's a sacred area.

  17. I quite agree with you: New and old art can happily co-exist, but not on top of each other! There should be enough stones and rock-faces to go around for many generations Let us hope that it was just ignorance ...

  18. The rock art is lovely and so old. What a shame to disrespect such a sacred place.

  19. Wayne - I agree! They were way out of place.

    Brian - That is exactly what I thought.

    sage - Today, a person would go to jail for doing it.

    Betsy Adams - Thanks Betsy! Good to be back...

    Sylvia K - Thanks Sylvia! You are so right!

    William Kendall - I agree and further, I bet most of the people don't even pay much attention to the petroglyphs.

    Bouncin Barb - I'm right there with you. It's a crime.

  20. Al - Yep, it's way out of place.

    Stickup Artist - It is GREAT to be back. I'm out there right now and we'll see how much I'm up to. Thanks so much for the nice words.

    Ms. A - Totally inappropriate. I hope it all fades away before it becomes "historic."

    Dennis Hodgson - Hi Dennis! Thanks, it's nice to be back at it. I'm not artistic enough to even make a comment about his talent. I do know his judgement was not good. I'll be by soon...

    Elizabeth Varadan - I totally agree with you. There were plenty of other places in the area to paint this stuff. Oh well...

    visualnorway - You are correct! There were plenty of spots available to do his painting.

    ladyfi - I think you hit it right on the head. "Disrespect" is a perfect word for it.

  21. Oh no! Not the right place at all! I do like his work but it is what it is 'street art' and totally in the wrong environment! It sticks out like a sore thumb in this out-back (as we say in Australia) region. So nice to see you here Pat, happy travels :)

  22. the murals seem a bit awkward in this place :)

  23. such vivid and colourful ones those are!

  24. It actually makes me so angry that I have a hard time seeing the talent or beauty in the modern works ... The ugly self indulgency simply overwhelms any vestige of art in it. I am an uncharitable old fuddyduddy obviously.

  25. The artist may not have meant to be disrespectful. (We are becoming more aware of respecting native rights, practices, art....) But it sure does look like it doesn't belong there!

  26. Hello Pat, welcome back! I do think the artwork is beautiful. I do agree it is in the wrong place and it is disrespectful of this sacred place.

    I do love the petroglyphs, especially the big horn sheep. Thanks for sharing!
    Have a happy day!

  27. I with you on this one - 'landscape art' has a real place in helping to understand the environment, but it has a time and a place - and putting it on top of these ancient art sites is neither!

    Glad to see you back and as feisty as ever!!!

    cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  28. Vegetable AssassinNovember 5, 2015 at 1:47 PM

    Hey Pat!

    You are right, the paintings are lovely, but yeah, sort of inappropriate in that they just overpower the whole area and take from the petroglyphs. I get someone wanting to immortalize their stuff on the rocks in much the same fashion, but there are vast areas to choose from to do this and well, it seems he's chosen that location specifically BECAUSE of the petroglyphs so yeah...stake out your own site, dude, is my thought on that. It also sort of cheapens his work if you ask me, which you did not. :)

  29. I was in a church in Wurzburg once, and along the old pews on the side was 'graffiti' left by Bonaparte's soldiers in the late 1700' some point it stopped being 'graffiti' and became a historical artifact. Somehow I don't think the same will happen with your examples above.

    Cheers, and nice pics, Pat.

  30. PerthDailyPhoto - Yep! Wrong thing to do. As far as I know, he didn't catch any heat for it either. I'm going to do some research on that point though.

    NatureFootstep - Oh yeah! Awkward is a good for it.

    DEZMOND - Vivid and colorful and totally in the wrong place.

    Sallie (FullTime-Life) - I agree, in that spot it seems very self indulgent. However, I don't agree that you are an uncharitable old fuddy-duddy.

    EG CameraGirl - You might be right. Also, a lot of archaeologists still regarded petroglyphs and pictographs as being unimportant at that time.

  31. eileeninmd - Thanks Eileen! It's good to be back. I like the big horn sheep also. Lot's of them out there.

    Stewart M - Thanks Stewart! Feisty? Moi? Yeah, I know I am. I agree, wrong time, wrong place...

    Vegetable Assassin - Hey hey! I think you explained it way better than I did. I totally agree. Nice to see your comment and thanks for email...

    Should Fish More - Thanks Mike! You are so right. Historical graffiti is a whole different thing.

  32. I'm kind of mixed in my feelings about this. The artwork is pretty cool. And seemingly it should be where it is and definitely not if it is painted over any of the old work. My question might be are the petroglyphs appropriate where they are in nature? I wonder if anyone back then had objections to those artists defacing nature and the landscape? In a sense those works are graffiti on nature's walls.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  33. Arlee Bird - It really isn't proper to compare the two. First off, "rock art" really isn't art at all.

    The people who made these ancient symbols had no written language, or hieroglyphics (symbols that represent words). These symbols are primarily spiritual in nature and are always placed in specific places in relation to the horizon, the direction, and the stars. Most of them appear to be made by either Shamans, Shaman's Apprentices, or initiates (of various things).

    The symbols don't always represent what they appear to. For instance, in the southwest we see tons of big horn sheep petroglyphs, but unless they are part of hunting magic, they usually have more to do with water or power. We also see many snake petroglyphs, usually, the snake represents fertility. Not just of humans, but of game animals, and edible plants. The symbols that look really odd and appear to make little sense were made by Shamans in an altered state of consciousnesses (aka dream quest). They also made symbols relating to their "helpers" many times the helpers were snakes, big horns, etc. Sometimes symbols were used to mark trails, set boundaries (not in the sense of land ownership), and give out information. These spots were and are still sacred to them.

    Most of the petroglyphs and pictographs in this country were made centuries before Europeans discovered that the world wasn't flat...

    Comparing graffiti to these ancient symbols, is like comparing a ping pong ball to the moon.

  34. I totally understand the point and I guess I was taking a debate stance with the thought of a bigger picture such as what if these paintings were observed by some future peoples 5 or 10 thousand years from now. They might have equal or greater significance. By no means do I defend these current actions anymore than I would defend ISIS blowing up and destroying traces of the past like they do.

    Playing devil's advocate with you and not minimizing the severity of the action of the wall art creator.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  35. I'm totally with you Pat. They are good in and of themselves, but not great and certainly shouldn't be 'here.' I guess times were different and that respect factor wasn't in place. For some reason I'm thinking of the film Billy Jack which represented the sixties mentality for me. (although made in 71)

    Great to see you back my friend.

  36. They are beautiful and colorful when you just see one of them, but when you saw so many like in the last few photos, they do look out of place!

  37. Arlee Bird - No problem Lee! I knew what you were doing. I appreciate the comments.

    Anthony J. Langford - Thanks Anthony! That movie (Billy Jack) almost got me killed one time. I think I have a rough draft of that story in draft form already I should finish and post it.

    Icy BC - Even all of them might have been okay, if it was done in another place.

  38. WARNING: Cranky Old Man ahead.
    While the colorful rock art IS beautiful, I don't think it belongs alongside the older glyphs.
    I like tapestries of "Dogs Playing Poker," too, for instance. But, they don't belong on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

  39. Al Penwasser - That would make two of us! I will openly admit that I used to have that tapestry hanging in my living room. Right next to the my poker table. Then I got married and my wife, was insistent that it didn't belong in my house either.

  40. The art is beautiful, but no it does not belong there. The world is a canvas, why ruin a culture's history? Great post, and it's great to see you back Pat.

  41. While colourful and obviously the work of a very talented artist, I get a sense of arrogance in the placement of such work so close to ancient rock carvings,
    It simply shouts "look at me" and while that perhaps is the goal of most artists, perhaps it would be so much better to have painted such lovely pieces on canvas or even purpose built structures.
    I agree with most others, that it is definately in the wrong place and really shows little respect for the natural beauty of the environment and the cultural significance of what is already there

    So good to have you back with your beautiful posts Pat

  42. TS Hendrik - Yep! It's a shame that the world is a canvas and I have absolutely zero artistic talent... Thanks Tim! It is great to be back

    Trish - I think you probably said it better than anybody. It does seem like arrogance. I'm surprised no "vandals" have defaced his work.
    Thanks so much for the nice words Trish. I truly appreciate them.

  43. I'm so glad you're back in action. Welcome back! I'll look forward to your many desert adventures. The art is so misplaced. That is sad. Criminal really.

  44. I agree with you 150%. No, they do not belong. It is a shame. In my book I would call some of this graffiti at its worst.

  45. I had no idea you created such controversy on your Needles

    I have to agree with you, those paintings, while beautiful in their own right and very well done, do not belong where they are. To look at the zoomed out pictures makes me cringe and very sad. My dad raised us with a love of nature and the natural beauty found there, and he LOVES the history found in the land and learning about Native Americans. (In fact, he had to get a cornea transplant many years ago and claims that the corneas he received were from a Native American and that makes him 1/4 Native American now. And he's very proud of that!) Anyway, when I see garbage throughout the land, or people who have defaced special and scared areas, it hurts my heart. I wish that people could understand the importance of the history of an area instead of being intent on destroying it so that they can leave their own mark.

    Rant over. :)

  46. Sharon Wagner - Thanks Sharon! It is good to be back. I agree about it being totally misplaced.

    genie - Great minds think alike! Thanks Genie...

    Baby Sister - Oh yeah, Needles... I still get an occasional email and/or comment on that post. I'll be out that way pretty soon. I'm sure city hall will be glad to see me again. NOT! Your are right, if you only look at a small portion, it looks okay, but from a distance it's like a big scar. You are right about some people. They SUCK! Thanks for comment Amanda.

    altadenahiker - Yeah! Even if it's a rock!

  47. While I do agree with your opinion regarding the innapropiate location the artist chose, I have to at least mention the only touch has been done by the artist himself, not by the locals. It was touched up in the early 2000's by Roy. They do attract a fair share of tourists, which helps keep this small community alive. A few of us here keep the area free of trash and make a point to dissuade anyone from vandalizing the area. Hopefully all of the "Art" will be here for future generations to enjoy.

    Mark Fess

  48. Anonymous - It's probably a good thing that the actual artist is the only one to touch it all up. I know it's too late now, but I wonder if it would it be less of a draw if these "murals" were painted on the sides of buildings in town? I totally understand about every little bit helps in a small place like that. Having said that, I still think it's a shame that the artist was totally insensitive relating to where he was creating his murals. I hope to be back out that way later this year. Would it be possible for you to show me around Chloride? Not necessarily to see the usual tourist items (done that), but maybe things that most people don't see, or even know about? Thanks so much Mark, I really appreciate that you took the time to create and send your comment.


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