Grand Canyon

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Artist In Residence

North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

Buddha Temple and Zoroaster Temple From The North Rim

Pat Musick Working At The Grand Canyon Lodge

Brahma Temple and Zoroaster Temple at sunset

Veranda studio at Grand Canyon Lodge

In July, 2006, I had the honor of spending three weeks at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon as Artist-in-Residence. I hiked, sketched, drew twigs and leaves for a brochure illustrating the trees and shrubs of the North Rim, gave two Evening Programs about my work, and--several days each week--demonstrated the enameling process in my temporary outdoor studio perched on the rim of Transept Canyon. Each morning, I walked down the Bright Angel Point trail to draw as dawn struck buttes and cliffs and reached into the shadows of Bright Angel Canyon thousands of feet below.

"Canyon Lifeblood," the piece I donated to Grand Canyon National Park as part of my residency, on exhibit at the North Rim Visitors' Center, 2008.

Canyon Lifeblood

Canyon Lifeblood (2007)
Etched and enameled copper, silver foil; 16 x 20

Each Artist-in-Residence is asked to donate one piece, inspired by the residency, to Grand Canyon National Park. My piece, "Canyon Lifeblood," came out of my original residency proposal to focus on water as "the lifeblood of the Canyon." The central panel is a view of Ribbon Falls, a moss-drenched, cool oasis just off the North Kaibab Trail about eight miles down from the North Rim. The two side panels are Canyon views from the rim and from its depths.

I hiked down into the canyon and camped two nights at Cottonwood Camp, where metal ammo boxes and tall steel poles are provided for hikers to store all food and hang footwear overnight, to keep them from ringtails, scorpions, and other desert dwellers. The north rim is 8000 feet above sea level, conifer and aspen forest; even in July a pleasant climate. At Cottonwood Camp, just halfway to the river from the north rim, but 4000 feet lower in elevation, daytime temperatures in July can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It cools down to 80 at night. The best place to be down there during the day in July is beside (or in) Bright Angel Creek. Or to rest, mesmerized, at the foot of Ribbon Falls, in its sweet, cool microclimate; cool breezes, butterflies, canyon wrens, columbines. The waterfall has formed an enormous mound of travertine, over which water pours and trickles down long braided ribbons of deep, thick, emerald-green moss. One can lie on the sandstone below the falls and gaze up to plumes of spray spilling over the cliff above.

Canyon Lifeblood - Center Panel

For the central panel's waterfall, I used ginbari, a Japanese enameling technique. Silver foil is annealed and pressed into a form--in this case, a form I made from thin wires to give the texture of the moss--and fused to the enameled copper. The brilliance and cool sparkle of the silver shines through the transparent green enamels fired over it. For the cliffs behind the falls, I used separation enamels to emphasize the textures of the rock strata.

Canyon Lifeblood, Left Panel

Canyon Lifeblood, Right Panel

The enameling technique used on the top, bottom, and side panels, basse-taille, involved etching the copper, then firing transparent enamels over it. For the side panels, I drew the images on bare copper with an acid-resistant paint. When the piece was immersed in ferric chloride, the areas of copper not protected by the paint were etched away. The left side panel shows the view from Bright Angel Point looking down toward Cottonwood Camp; the foreground includes pinyon pine, Indian paintbrush, and the endemic Kaibab Swallowtail butterfly. The right side panel depicts Bright Angel Point seen from below, near Cottonwood Camp. The foreground includes agave, yucca, and desert spiny lizard.

To see how the etched copper versions of the side panels (above) and the top panel (below) look after the enamel is applied, double click the image. Single click to return.

Canyon Lifeblood, Top Panel

For the top and bottom panels, I photocopied some of my plant drawings onto clear acetate to use as film positives and, by adhering a photosensitive film to bare copper tiles and exposing each to sunlight, transferred the drawings to the copper. In this case, the positive areas (the drawings) were etched away in ferric chloride, while the rest of the film acted as a resist, protecting the copper surface.

Pat Musick With Canyon Lifeblood In Kolb Studio, Grand Canyon National Park

North Rim Artists-in-Residence Exhibition
Kolb Studio
South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park
Late 2007 - Early 2008



On that same backpack into the Canyon, I spent one day exploring a side canyon. Wall Canyon epitomizes the extreme variety of microhabitats defined by water at Grand Canyon: riparian along the creek, shady and gentle with alders, cottonwoods, canyon live oak, mosses, columbines, dragonflies, canyon tree frogs, horsetails, and ferns...and, scant yards away, the spiny, thorny life of the hot, arid desert: prickly pear cactus, yucca, agave, catclaw acacia, lizards.

In hiking down Grand Canyon trails, one descends from one geologic layer to another, passing through nine different geologic formations by the time one crosses the mouth of Wall Canyon. Toward this side canyon's lower reaches, the creek sculpts its way through layers of lovely Tapeats sandstone. A pause along the creek as I climbed back down from a long hot hike up three geologic layers, to where the spring that feeds Wall Creek emerges from solid Redwall limestone, inspired this piece. Faint from hours of steep scrambling on crumbly shale and three-digit temperatures, I drew refreshment from the chilly, splashing water, horsetails, maidenhair ferns, dragonflies and damselflies that danced with life against a backdrop of bare Tapeats stone. In this piece, I created a low relief effect in depicting the eroded sandstone layers by using the sgraffito technique. I scratched through unfired enamel to bare copper before firing, and the exposed copper oxidized to black when fired.



On a sketching outing, my visiting cousin, Ariele, and I drew a twisted log overlooking the Canyon near the top of Angels Window. I later used my sketch as a basis for one of the pieces I began as a demonstration at my veranda studio, where I had access to an electric outlet for my portable electric kiln, and a view as broad as the Canyon.

I worked in the mornings until the space was no longer in shade, then covered my equipment with tarps to protect it from the afternoon monsoons. Later, in my home studio, I completed this piece.


Pat Musick - musickstudio