Unfolding the Map
Hickison Summit was evidently a place where early Native Americans "posted" carved symbols in a kind of prehistoric Facebook page. A lot of those carvings could be considered "naughty" because they depict various female body parts. The academic term for these carvings is "vulviform." Click on the map thumbnail at the right to learn where you can go to see prurient archeology.
"Wind and water had cut the canyon wall into particularly sensuous shapes, and on rocks the elements had left blank, Indians of a thousand years ago carved sacred designs. The Bureau of Land Management had fenced off the petroglyphs, but stick figures, concentric circles, and rectangles stood out clearly from the damp stone. To the Indian, these cuttings were not pictures or objects so much as events: they carried life.
"At the west end, where the fence came close to a ritualistic chiseling, I reached over and traced my finger along an incised abstraction now polished by years of hands. A cryptic engraving. Then I saw that the design wasn't at all abstract, but rather a graphic rendering of a female pudendum, a glyph even Cro-Magnons carved. In a time so long ago no descendant can remember any of it, an Indian had cut his desire, or coming of age, or hope for regeneration into the pink sandstone. It was as if I touched another dimension - a long skein of men, events, places. It was as if I had reused the image."
Blue Highways: Part 5, Chapter 6
Hickison Summit, Nevada
When I was an early teenager, my uncle who was staying with us at the time came to me and said he wanted to talk to me. "Okay," I answered, not sure what he wanted. He took me outside and we sat out on our deck for a while, and then he said "so I saw your pictures." I wasn't sure what he meant. I hadn't drawn any pictures. I didn't think of myself as an artist or anything. "What pictures," I asked, puzzled. "The ones on the bathroom window."
Oh...those pictures. At night, after taking a bath, the window was fogged up and I drew pictures of female genitalia in the steam on the window. After all, it was that age where I was really thinking about those sorts of things a lot. Women and their bodies were a source of extreme interest and fascination for me. I had gotten in trouble previously for having some magazines between my mattress and the box spring, but in those heady days those were the first glimpse that I ever had of an unclothed grown woman. They were amazing, beautiful and a bit intimidating and I remember the feelings as my hormones kicked into gear when I saw them. The pictures I drew were my attempt to recreate what I saw and remembered. I had thought they disappeared when the window fog evaporated but, evidently, they had left enough trace amounts of oil from my fingers to leave behind a more lasting record of my artistic endeavors.
Our art is a signpost of where we are at in our lives. Like Picasso, who had his "Blue Period," I have occasionally, through art, had my own periods of creation. (Note: I do not equate any of my creativity with the genius of Picasso or any other great artist or writer) When I was a teenager, my stabs at the female form were one marker of where I was in life. As a young adult, my tortured poetry about relationships marked another period. I had a long period where I didn't do anything creative at all. After another reawakening of literary creativity brought about by a disastrous foray into a friendship that got too involved, I went through another bout of creativity reflecting that period of my life.
Now, my art reflects, I think, a more sober, reflective self. I don't put myself up there with the great artists of the world, but like the Native Americans on Hickison Summit who carved their signs and symbols into rocks I throw my creative endeavors up onto the Web, which in our age is a hi-tech version of rocks, bulletin boards, billboards, or refrigerator doors.
Given that, it's nice to know that a constant art theme throughout history, especially the history of males, are the signs and symbols of the feminine and female beauty. They may not always intend to honor, but in my heart, even if such symbols are born out of lust or humor or even anger, they still acknowledge the amazing power of our feelings and longings to be close to someone, even to be one with someone. It's only our own thoughts of inadequacy and our insecurities that may lead such symbols to be drawn as expressions of unfeeling objectivity. The essence of life and the forces, which we barely understand, that drive men (and women) to try to picture and reproduce the feminine, is pure and sacred in its untouched state. It makes me feel less silly for drawing pictures in steam on my bathroom window, and more a part of the strong energy of life. Now in my late 40s, it's wonderful to still feel that urgency, those longings, that sense of the mystery of the feminine when it reveals itself, or is revealed, to me.
I guess, fitting with this theme, J. Geils Band's Centerfold will fill the bill. Ahhh, the 80s. Where my teenage lusts clashed with my more adult finer sensibilities! I wrote in the last post that pornography has not been alien to me...obviously some form of it has been around since early humans started drawing pictures on cave walls. Whether you think it can be art or not, turning our longing and sexual expression into graphic depictions of all types, from porn to high art, has a long history.
If you want to know more about Hickison Summit
Next up: Spencer's Hot Springs, Nevada