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Museum puts rock art in perspective

by Karel Ancona-Henry
For the Nevada Appeal
courtesyDavid Muench's photograph on display at the Nevada State Museum in "Rock Art Perspectives: Pictographs and Petroglyphs."
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“Rock Art Perspectives: Pictographs and Petroglyphs,” is on display at the Nevada State Museum’s South Changing Gallery through May 1, on loan from the High Desert Museum in Bend, Ore.

Funded by the Lakeview Oregon office of the Bureau of Land Management and in partnership with the Nevada Rock Art Foundation, the exhibit features the works of renown Native American artists and scholars Harry Fonseca, Carolyn Boyd, Lillian Pitt, Mary Ricks, Michael Frye, Melissa Melero, Alain Briot and David Muench.

Bill Cannon, Lakeview District archaeologist worked two years to build the exhibit, finding and contacting artists, and creating a stunning presentation that combines many mediums with a wide range of views.

“This is a combination of contemporary art and ancient art with an interpretive program that will impact the way people think about and see these sites and foster greater respect and understanding,” said Dr. Gene Hattori, NSM’s curator of archaeology and longtime colleague of Cannon.

“Bill has done a wonderful job showing a wide range of views and beautifully presented the works of artists who have been inspired by rock art in their regions, some from Nevada,” Hattori said. “As archaeologists we tend to want to give that view, but ‘Rock Art’ gives a really good basic view and scientific views combined with mixed media is more germaine because it allows them to see how native people view their history.

With the interfacing of interpretive programs that range from lectures to hands-on experiences, “Rock Art Perspectives,” offers something for everyone. (See schedule below). Part of that includes school tours available with two week notice. Teachers are asked to call Deborah Stevenson at 775-687-4810, ext. 237 or Sue Ann Monteleone, 775- 687-4810, ext. 240 to schedule a tour.

“Visitors will see how some of these were the equivalent of what we would today call doodling,” Hattori said. “While others, including some from the lower Pecos Canyon area are believed to be shamanic art due to their dreamlike qualities.”

Since so many of these treasures have been defaced or removed through the years, BLM has found public education and outreach to be very effective in reducing these issues, Hattori said.

“This is two-fold, in that government agencies are trying to bridge with the native communities and by raising awareness, by trying to show a different, educational-based effort as opposed to a rule-based one, that people are more likely to preserve the resources.”

Since making this shift, Hattori said, the number of citizen reports about vandalism has increased, and the vandalism itself has gone down.

“People are beginning to appreciate rock art for its cultural value and a shared history throughout the region,” Hattori said. “There has been a longstanding relationship between (University of Nevada, Reno) and Oregon BLM which is directly related to the shared archaeological history.

“In the old times there were no lines between states and this art connects western Nevada with southern Oregon, which is a theme ‘Rock Art Perspectives,’ continues.”

The museum, located at 600 N. Carson St., Carson City, is open Wednesday-Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Cost is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and free for members and children younger than 18. For more information, call (775) 687-4810 or visit nevadaculture.org.