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Carol Kortnik

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As an artist living in the mountains of northeast Oregon, I am provided with inexhaustible inspiration for the watercolor, acrylic, and mixed media paintings that I love doing. My husband, Mark, (also an artist) and I live in the small town of Joseph where we have our gallery and studios. We feel privileged to look out our windows and see so much beauty in our world. It is exciting as an artist to seek new ways to express what I see.

My backpacking trips into the Eagle Cap Wilderness area have been the inspiration for a series of landscape paintings that reflect the beauty of our area. I feel a special sensitivity to the quietness of a day spent among trees laden with snow, seeing little birds on a winter morning, appreciating the smallest wildflowers that bloom so quickly after the snow recedes. These wilderness experiences represent the moments that I enjoy painting.

It was on a boat trip on the Snake River when I discovered petroglyphs and pictographs on the walls of the Hell's Canyon. My experience will be one that stays with me forever. I felt a connection with a different person who, a thousand years before, had stood at that same spot with reason to carve those images into the rock surface. Since then, I have been researching rock art sites in the western states, wondering what those drawings could possibly have meant in the existence of people living so long ago. Their function was to increase the knowledge of those who lived in a world long ago, whose survival depended on understanding things as seasonal changes and the nature of the animals in their environment. We do not experience life that way. But there is a message that be learned from them, and their art form is there for us to enjoy as we try to imagine how those people lived and what the messages meant. With my unique style of mixed media painting, I undertake to preserve that art form, down to the very cracks that have reshaped the rocks on which they have existed for thousands of years.

My further interest in rock art has lead me to the caves in France and Spain, where carbonating has confirmed the age of those paintings to be from 10,000 to30,000 years old, the oldest paintings known to man! There drawn or engraved on the walls of many caves are images of life-size horses, bison, mammoths, ibex, reindeer, rhinos, and lions. Altamira in Spain was discovered in 1868. In 1940, the cave at Lascaux France was found by youths while exploring a deep hole in the ground. The latest discovery, in 1994, was the Chauvet Cave in the south of France. They represent "our most direct contact with the beliefs, pre-occupations of our ancestors." In order to protect them, many of the caves have been closed to the public, but photographs exist in books that give us our access to this artwork. After remaining in the dark for thousands of centuries, they become an important part of the lives of everyone who experiences this connection to the Mysteries of the ancient past.

It is with respect that I share with you my artistic response to these ancient images, and to the beauty of the natural world.