Saturday, April 26, 2014

Courthouse and Jail Rocks - Acrylic

"Courthouse and Jail Rocks" Acrylic

It's a breezy, spring day in Western Nebraska. Courthouse and Jail Rocks tower above the open prairie. A row of stately cottonwoods traces the winding course of Pumpkin Creek while a field of fresh hay slices through rugged pastureland. The fiery foreground is accented by glittering, silver sagebrush.

The cloudless sky is a deep blue as the unusual formation appears golden in the evening light and dark shadows define the bold geography. The steep south face is terraced like a Sumerian ziggurat and descends into a labyrinth of mysterious corridors, caves, tunnels and rattlesnake pits.

Composed of Brule clay, Gering sandstone and ash, the rocks are erosional remnants of an ancient plateau formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago. Later, they became an unforgettable natural landmark that guided emigrants during the 19th century's Westward Expansion.

Back then, just passing near the monument offered hope to weary pioneers struggling to find a better life in this strange, new land. Even today, the mere sight of the eternal peaks provides inspiration to those determined to overcome life's ever-changing obstacles.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Courthouse and Jail Rocks - A Proud Palace of Solitude

Courthouse and Jail House Rocks

Located just south of Bridgeport in the panhandle of Nebraska at the eastern terminus of the Wildcat Hills, Courthouse and Jail House Rocks ascend 400 feet above the North Platte River Valley. For me, the rocks are an enduring symbol of the pioneer spirit, hope and home. During the Westward Expansion, they were a famous landmark as the Oregon, California, Mormon, Pony Express and Sidney-Deadwood trails all ran near the geographical marvels.

The formation was first noted by Robert Stuart in 1812. From a far distance, he observed a solitary tower rising out of the open prairie. Only upon closer inspection did he discover there were actually two. Stuart thought the larger feature looked like a courthouse, while the smaller a jail. Locals originally began calling the place McFarlan's Castle while passerbys referred to them as the Lonely Tower, the Castle or the Capitol. By 1837, the name Courthouse and Jail Rocks had stuck.

During the 19th century, settlers on the trail relied on natural landmarks to guide them in the right direction. To emigrants from the European coast who had never seen a mountain or even a bluff, Courthouse and Jail Rocks were described as stunning, geologic features. Fascinated by the strange peaks and because they knew they would never see them again, many people climbed to the summit and carved their names in the soft Brule clay.

Being the first of several impressive monuments in Western Nebraska, Courthouse and Jail are a proud palace of solitude and the vanguard of unforgettable scenic wonders that travelers would encounter further west. They provided comfort that the party was on the right track and inspired hope that everything was going to be okay in the future. When feeling a bit under the weather, a powerful tonic can sometimes be memories of home. Just like the pioneer days of old, it's time to circle the wagons.

The rocks rise 400 feet above the valley floor

Seybolt Park is the eastern terminus of the Wildcat Hills

The peaks are geographic marvels

The natural landmark can be seen from a great distance

A stunning geologic feature

Jail House Rock

Courthouse Rock

A proud palace of solitude

The vanguard of scenic wonders to come

They provided comfort and hope

Just like pioneer days of old, it's time to circle the wagons

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Chicago Basin - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Chicago Basin" Colored Pencil

It's a warm day in Colorado's Front Range where a dense thicket of sharp willows forms an almost impassable barrier. You must search for a narrow passageway that leads into the heart of this spectacular wilderness. At the top of Chicago Basin, dark evergreens and a gigantic boulder mark a natural gateway to the incomparable Chicago Lakes. Here, the tundra landscape opens up to a panorama of expansive, gray peaks.

The pair of icy-blue ponds are stair-stepped remnants of an ancient glacier that shaped this high valley thousands of years ago. Today, the deep cirque is lush with golden grass and colorful wildflowers. Long, transparent shadows creep down the hillside defining forms in the rugged terrain while steep rock walls enclose the area with a sense of isolation and solitude.

Harmless, wispy clouds drift down over the foothills and just beyond the sheer headwall, Mount Evans pierces the wide open sky. Warm rays of sunshine are neutralized by an ever-present breeze of cool air. Reddish-violet in the morning light, the mountain is still flecked with white snow. After such a long, hard winter, I'm looking forward to summertime in the Rockies.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cyborgs - They are Walking Among Us

General Grievous

"I am Grievous, warlord of Kaleesh and Supreme Commander of the armies of the Confederacy. And I am not a droid" ~ Grievous

I've always been fascinated by science fiction stories. I'm allured by the exotic locales, strange creatures and the wondrous but sometimes unsettling human characters that are portrayed as a synthesis of organic and artificial parts. People like the Six Million Dollar Man, Robocop and the Terminator raise questions about the differences between man and machine concerning morality, free will and empathy.

My favorite cyborg has to be General Grievous from the Star Wars saga. Not only because he's artistically cool but he's also a battered old warrior living precariously to fight another day. After a bomb destroyed his shuttle, Grievous suffered near fatal injuries that rendered his body useless. The Separatists reconstructed Grievous by implanting his brain, eyes and vital organs into a duranium alloy body. Grievous was brainwashed and used as a weapon against the illustrious Jedi.

Today, humans whose physical capabilities are extended beyond their limitations is no longer fiction. Restorative cyborgizaion is the repair of broken or missing processes that enable a person to revert back to a healthy or average level of function. For example, someone fitted with a heart pacemaker has mechanical parts that enhance the body's natural rhythm through synthetic feedback. We don't necessarily have to play the God-given hand we were dealt.

As we age, our natural parts wear out. That used to mean immobility or death. Now, we can replace them. Artificial implants such as knee or hip replacements can reduce the suffering of a patient and allow them to live more comfortably. Many scientists believe that cybernetic technology will play a crucial role in the ongoing, human-evolutionary process but the future is now. Look closely and you'll see, there are already cyborgs walking among us.

The Six Million Dollar Man

The Terminator

Robocop

"I am not a droid!"