On a recent drive out to Summer Lake Hotsprings, I stopped at Picture Rock Pass to look for the namesake petroglyphs. After hunting on both sides of the road, the tell-tale images materialized when I had just about given up hope of finding them. Several line drawings of animals and human figures had been scratched into a large flat rock, not far at all from the road, on what has been determined to be an old Indian trade route.
While the petroglyphs may have been “drawn” by shaman as hunting magic along a game trail, the purpose could have been part of a vision quest, a territorial claim, talismans against evil spirits, markers of religious sites, records of myths and historical events, or simply doodles to pass the time. Regardless, the petroglyphs fuel the imagination.
Divining the reasons behind art’s creation is not an easy proposition, maybe the artists several thousands of years ago had different motivations, or possibly they are right in line with contemporary drivers to create. Sandy Brooke, associate professor of Art at OSU-Cascades said, “You want to stretch the viewer, and make you question what you are doing and make them feel a little uncomfortable. The difference between what is considered art is, does it get the viewer involved? Do they want to look at it again?” Or maybe the answer is a little simpler than that. “I just like to make stuff,” said my co-worker, Andrew Danfelt.
Do we need reasons for creating art? Leaving art’s value and purpose up to the viewer’s imagination may be what it’s all about anyway.
Commentary by Renee Patrick