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A Little Midwinter-spring Diversion

January 19, 2015

Before talking about Ken Brandon’s paintings that recall another way of life, I will quickly mention a new bit of lost civilization: tax forms at the library.

After wondering ourselves where all our tax forms and instructions had gone, we finally received word that they would not be forthcoming. The recent Omnibus Bill cut IRS funding, and the library tax program became a thing of the past.

We will get the basic 1040/A/EZ, no instruction booklets, and a binder of reproducible forms. Of course, “Everything’s available online,” except what’s not: W-2s, 1099s, etc. You’ll just have to order them from the IRS. We will try to expedite printing of instruction booklets, but expect to pay.

As the centuries pass, what might remain from us that will prove as evocative as what’s been left to us in the art of petroglyphs? Ken Brandon’s show at the library is a series of paintings of petroglyphs and the animals they portray.

They are particularly appealing to me because they are about natural colors, patinas, layers, gestures, and symbols, as well as being those things. The “are” what they are “about.”

I’ve always been drawn to calligraphic art, and petroglyphs have the added aura of being ancient and mysterious. Ken petroglyphs have all the appeal of the real ones “out there.”

I love the colors and the rock surfaces. There’s something formal and noble about the animals posing with their rock art images—they way each might have sat for its portrait holding an award.

The buffalo is impressive because one can’t help but consider the real-life experiences that made it an important image. It’s a big, strong, fast animal to subdue with arrows and spears.

I’m very fond of the turtle. Its rock art image is pecked pointillist style into darkly stained sandstone. The colors are very familiar and true.

I like the birds, too—the crow and the owl, both the portraits and the interesting petroglyphs. I think it’s a crow; I’m trying to remember if I should know it’s a raven. But the crow and owl petroglyphs are stylized, like the turtle, in ways that make them seem symbolic rather than just representational records.

But what do we know? I can’t help but wonder if ancient art was necessarily of religious or ceremonial significance, as we tend to conclude. What if some teenagers were just out smoking and having fun?

I read in a hot spring guide that the Mt. Princeton hot springs were used for religious ceremonies. I wonder if we really know that. I lean toward bands of travelers stopping for a hot soak.

I like Ken’s careful attention to this ancient artwork and his reticence about it: “This collection of acrylic paintings reflects a lifelong desire to explore the need of Man to connect with Nature.”

His is not an archaeological interest.

After all these decades, I was unfamiliar with Ken’s work outside of his graphic design business. It was such a pleasure to see his show go up. I learned some of Ken’s history: his early art instruction came from TV via Jon Gnagy and Walter Lentz, enough for him to know it would be a life’s pursuit.

He graduated from CSU in graphic design, ended up as head of the art department at Otero Junior College near where he grew up, then moved to Salida intending to paint. Family life dictated a graphic design business instead, but now he’s back to painting.

And we welcome him. Come see Ken’s show when you need a little midwinter-spring diversion.

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