Worlds Within Worlds
Driving south out of Leadville, Colorado on a field trip with my students, I saw these painted granite rocks for the first time. Without knowing their history, this collection of large boulders seemed whimsical, a strange wonder, and I pleaded with our driver to turn around for just a few moments. It turns out they are an homage to Colorado’s mining heritage, as well as representations of the work of the best stone drillers in the mountains. After thinking about them for two years, this summer I was able to return. The weather was uncooperatively stormy, and later, so severe that it caused mudslides and closed the nearby Independence Mountain Pass. I was momentarily held captive in this little world, mining this “world within worlds” with great abandon.
My interest in collecting rocks and stones began early. It was a way to preserve my memories, and to take part of the landscape home. When I was a graduate student, I was thrilled to discover that Chinese scholar rocks were representations of the vastness of nature that painter-scholars took back to the studio to celebrate the landscape, marvel at the universe, and inspire their own creations, both in art and in writing.
I was introduced to the karst limestone formations in the Li River Valley in Guangxi province through painting and thought they were so surreal that I doubted their existence. In 1984, a fellowship enabled me to live in the Li River Valley for half a year, photographing and contemplating this landscape that has inspired painters and artists for millennia.
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