Story Behind The Painting

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Many years ago, I visited Pueblo Bonito where I had the first of many coyote encounters. During the night, they were busily foraging next to my tent and cackling like witches. It was an extraordinary moment in time, a little scary as well! This event left an indelible impression on me. The extraordinary structures, the amazingly colorful night skies and the sense of solitude permeated this beautiful landscape.


Pueblo Bonito (Spanish for “beautiful town”), the largest and best known Great House in Chaco Culture National Historical Park, northern New Mexico, was built by ancestral Pueblo people and occupied between AD 828 and 1126. It is posited that Chaco Canyon and Pueblo Bonito were the centre of the Chacoan world and Pueblo Bonito was one of the most famous Chaco Sites with its huge D-shaped building that housed many. (Snow, 130)

For this painting, Pueblo Bonito Vision, I wanted to show the celebrated cultural site through some of its more commonly know symbols. For instance, a snake is a fairly common pictograph in the US Southwest area. Conventionally, a snake, without a forked tongue, represents lightning. When it is depicted with its tongue expelled it is the actual snake.

In some tribes, a person who is waving signifies a Storyteller while in others this gesture is associated with shamans as they communicate with the Great Spirit or the sky.  For me, this person represents a Storyteller.

The anthromorph who is running is from the San Juan River, Glen Canyon area of Utah. He is assessed as having been created between A.D. 900-1300 and represents a person running a race.

The bird-headed person on the lower left may derive from Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto in Arizona, He may be holding an atlatl (spear or dart thrower). Bird symbolism can often indicate the shaman’s soul leaving his body to take flight.

Coyotes, wolves and dogs are common motifs in the US Southwest. Often these figures represent what they actually are . Other theories hold that “they belong to the sun, the stars, the sea, the globe.  For instance, the Guaicura Indians believe that a dog was their maker”. (Smith 1985:43)

Kokopelli, the hump-backed flute player, plays out many roles in Hopi culture but in this instance he is presiding over the reproduction of these rams. He is also commonly seen with snakes, lizards and insects around him. The Zuni associate  Kokopelli with the rains and other tribes claim he carries seeds and babies on his back. (Wikipedia)

Coiled spirals are usually whirlwind symbols and there are many represented in pictographs. They can also be symbols of Emergence, a record of the Puebloans wanderings and return to the Center.

One interpretation of the highly stylized swastika symbol in the painting can signify the sum of all the migration routes of various Hopi clans. The spiral ended swastika can also mean friendly or peace making. (Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest, Alex Patterson)

The entire sense of this painting, for me, is one of joy and play within a Pueblo setting. The storyteller is relaying vital cultural information, dogs and animals are running free, Kokopelli is busy dealing with fertility issues amongst the animals and the shaman is attending to his people. All is well in the Pueblo world.

To create this painting I tested various square and circular tools which I imprinted in Coarse Molding Paste, Heavy Gel Gloss, Fiber Paste and Extra Heavy Gel Matte. Once dried I added Garnet Gel Fine over top. A large amount of Earth colors were used including some Interference colors. The image size is:  22.5 x 30.5

Sources: Wikipedia. Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest, Alex Patterson.