Petrified Forest

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Artist In Residence
Petrified Forest National Park 

In October 2011 I spent two glorious weeks as Artist in Residence at Petrifed Forest National Park. Besides the profusion of petrified trees and Triassic fossils, petroglyphs abound; the colorful Painted Desert comprises much of the park. Each day throughout the residency, I watched the sunrise paint the desert with light, then hiked and sketched, usually in the backcountry wilderness. Each night, I slept under a bright river of stars. I spent one day demonstrating enameling in the historic Painted Desert Inn. From hikes, and from perusing the park's museum collection of natural history and cultural artifacts, I brought back a treasure trove of photographs, writing, and sketches that fuel my ongoing studio work inspired by the residency.

The Speaking Land

The Speaking Land

Enameling on copper; 14" x 18"

The multiple layers of text that make up the hills and rocks are words from geology, paleontology, and Hopi and Zuni words--the stories the land of the Painted Desert holds. Shadow lines are the written names of plants and animals that live there today: ephemeral life moving over the ancient land.

Click here to see a step by step sequence of the layers of calligraphy and development of this piece.

The Speaking Land In Situ

The Speaking Land in situ

Blue Chinle     Blue Mesa

    Two Mounds

Painted Desert:
Blue Chinle, Blue Mesa, Red Chinle, Two Mounds

Enameled copper; each 4" high

The Speaking Land:
Enameling Process, Step By Step

1. After firing a coat of clear enamel on the copper panel, the rough layout for the first layer of lettering--geologic terms--was written freehand with markers; oil was applied over the marker lettering, using pen and brush.
2. White enamel was dusted onto the oil-written letters; dried, trimmed, and fired (the marker lines burned away in the firing process).

3. The lettering process was repeated in a layer of lettering-- paleontology/ paleobotany terms-- written in oil over the first layer of lettering using a broad-edged brush. Enamel--finely ground glass--was sifted onto the written letters, dried, and trimmed--this image shows the piece before firing.
4. The piece after several subsequent firings: the calligraphy process was repeated, this time using words from cultures associated with Painted Desert (Hopi and Zuni). Transparent blue enamel was applied in the sky area; before the piece was fired, petroglyph-style stars were scratched through the coating of blue enamel (sgraffito). To begin delineating hills, translucent enamels were applied over the landscape area.

5. Opaque blue enamel was fired on the sky area; more layers of translucent and opaque colors were used to continue developing the land forms.
6. After a transparent blue layer had been fired over the opaque blue sky, designs based on petroglyphs found in the park were painted in the sky area with oil and another translucent blue enamel sifted onto the designs, dried, and fired. In this image, the next layer of lettering and color-- names of birds and more foreground landscape tones--are shown before firing.

7. Finished piece: names of plants and animals written with enameling pen, dried, fired. This is the same piece as shown at the top of this page; in this photograph, light striking it at an angle creates reflectancy and reveals the subtle dimensional effect in the lettering.


Pat Musick - musickstudio