Sacred Images: A Vision of Native American Rock Art Paperback – May 7, 1996
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- Paperback : 112 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0879057343
- ISBN-13 : 978-0879057343
- Item Weight : 1.45 pounds
- Dimensions : 10 x 0.31 x 11 inches
- Publisher : Gibbs Smith, Publisher; 1st edition (May 7, 1996)
- Reading level : 18 and up
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,302,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Like many people, I am fascinated by Native American rock art. But never, with one exception, have I seen photographs or reproductions of rock art images that even begin to capture the magic and majesty of the images in situ (at least for the relatively small sample of rock art that I have seen personally). The exception is SACRED IMAGES. It contains sixty full-color plates of different rock art images of the highest photographic and printing quality. Most of the photographs were taken by three photographers: Craig Law, Tom Till, and John Telford.
It is worth quoting the concept behind the book, as stated by Leslie Kelen: "We envisioned creating a series of photographs that would portray the world of Utah rock art from the earliest prehistoric through the most recent historic styles. Using natural light techniques, the photographs would reveal these images as they stood on boulders, cliff faces, and overhangs. Singular photos would depict the aesthetic impact of each site. The aggregate would show the interactions of subjects both within and across styles." As executed, the book certainly succeeds in this mission.
For me, the photographs are the reason to own SACRED IMAGES. Yet the book also contains various texts that some people might value more than I do. There is a good Foreword by N. Scott Momaday, a Preface by Leslie Kelen that outlines the project, and a seven-page essay by David Sucec on the history and different styles of Indian rock art in Utah. Finally, there are about two dozen excerpts taken from interviews with different Native Americans about the meaning and significance of rock art in their traditions and lives. (Few of these excerpts relate directly to a given photograph.) I found some of these Indian contributions to be thoughtful and enlightening, but on the whole I could have done without them. On the other hand, they are more useful than any scholarly interpretations I have ever tried to read.
All of the rock art in SACRED IMAGES is contained in the state of Utah. I now have seen four or five of the images in person, and I am toying with the idea of arranging a trip to see more, with this book as a guide. Most of the rock art is "in the wild" and unprotected. Some of it has been restored after vandalism, and other images have been marred by mindless additions or graffiti by non-Indians. One's immediate reaction is to deplore such desecration. What, then, to think about the obliteration of ancient Basketmaker figures, as shown in two of the plates, that was done in the 1950s by Navajos with chisels under the direction of a medicine man who felt that the petroglyphs were responsible for a serious health crisis among the local Navajos?
If you have trouble locating SACRED IMAGES, you might try contacting Canyonlands National Park, where I bought a new, shrink-wrapped copy for $19.95. It is well worth that price.
Each chapter takes the reader on a pictorial tour of succeeding styles of rock art, with commentary from members of the Native American people of the Southwest. There's no dogma here. As Larry Cesspooch (Northern Ute) says, "The photograph...will only present a portion of (the) meaning. The other portion is the physical presence of the rock, which is as alive as you and I." Just as the rock art images have different meaning for different cultures, so too will different photographs from different angles convey different meaning. The enigmatic nature of these images is part of their mystery as well as their timeless appeal.
The photographic skill of Craig Law, John Telford, Tom Till, and others is well-represented in the 60 plates herein. Newcomers may be disappointed that this book follows the etiquette of not revealing specific rock art locations, but this is not intended as a guidebook. It's an invitation for both newcomers and seasoned explorers to seek a deeper spiritual understanding of these sacred images.