Partnership for Earth Spirituality
Earth Art / Wallace Ford

Artist's statement

Landscape teaches the Earth Story, generously providing us with metaphors which enrich our understanding of the human vocation within the unfolding creation. Northern New Mexico landscapes, because of their variety and, often, starkness, narrate the story in ways not easily found in other settings.

The setting for the first photo is Ghost Ranch. It is located in what is known as Piedra Lumbre, the Valley of the Shining Stone, just west of the village of Abiquiu. The valley is at the southern edge of the great Colorado plateau, itself stretching across northern New Mexico, northeastern Arizona and Southeastern Utah. Along the edge of the Plateau extraordinary sink-valleys, eroded canyons, stark formations invite exploration and listening to the story, as the historical index is so plainly visible.

“In the Meantime” captures the Earth story which occurred between two great cataclysmic extinctions: The Permian extinctions around 235 million years ago and the Cretaceous extinctions 67 million years ago. Within that time frame the continents were formed, the dinosaurs, the first mammals, and the first primates, flowers and winged creatures all emerged, only to face massive extinctions. The layer comprising the floor of the Valley, evident at Ghost Ranch, was laid down immediately after the Permian extinctions; Piedernal peak, the high mesa visible in the background, is topped by a layer from the Cretaceous era. So, in a sense, the landscape tells the story of massive extinctions and Earth’s creativity in bringing forth new life and new possibility.

W.H. Auden, in his Christmas oratorio “For the Time Being,” has the narrator conclude with the observation that now Christmas is over and we have yet to journey to Good Friday. And “in the meantime, which is all we ever have, let us redeem it from insignificance.” Ghost Ranch landscape invites creative courage, in spite of apparent defeat.

To the south of Ghost Ranch are the Jemez Mountains, formed by a large volcano about one million years ago. For miles surrounding the core, the volcano created layers of lava and tuft, forming the mesas extending out like fingers. The tuft layers have been the home for the early human settlements in the area, easily carved into dwellings. The wind and rain also have carved extraordinary sculptures in various locations of exposed tuft.

One such place is now known as Tent Rocks, near the Pueblo village of Cochiti. Walking through the canyons shaped by erosion, the carvings stand high above the visitor. In the photo of the Guardians, the sculpted shapes give an immediate sense of spirit and ancestral presence watching over the well-being of creation, evoking gratitude for such companionship.

At the other end of the continent, the landscape is dramatically different, yet full of Earth Story. In the photo, “A Vermont Hills Morning,” I am reminded of John Muir’s invitation: “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into the trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares drop off like autumn leaves.”

(Reprints of these photos, in 4x6 note cards and in enlargements, may be ordered from Foto by Ford:

©All art shown on this site is copyrighted by the artists and may not be copied or reproduced in any way without their express written permission.

These images are details; to see the full piece please click on each image.
W. Ford: In the Meantime-Ghost Ranch
W. Ford: The Guardians
W. Ford: Vermont Hills Morning


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