Petroglyphs of Pony Hills

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AN ADVENTURE AT PONY HILLS
Prehistoric Petroglyphs Near Deming, New Mexico
By Victoria Chick, contemporary figurative artist and early 19th & 20th Century Print Collector

As an artist, one of the things I always urge people to do, if possible, is to look at art directly if they want to really appreciate it, examine the materials, see how it was made, have a better sense of the color and texture and size and, if it is located in a specific place to notice how it relates to that place. Other things about an artwork can benefit the viewer through first – hand experience too. It is not always possible to understand why an artist produced the artwork we see or recognize that the art we see may have had an entirely different meaning to the artist than what it means to us. Subject matter is not always obvious.

This is a long introduction to my adventure at Pony Hills. I had some knowledge of what prehistoric petroglyphs are through research, photographs and actually seeing a few isolated ones, in various locations in the western states. But, I had not experienced hundreds of petroglyphs in one location until a friend took me to Pony Hills. The experience was humbling.  First, the trip was across the flat southern New Mexico desert almost 10 miles off the highway along a dusty, seldom traveled road to dead end at a not – very – impressive low hill of boulders and tumbled rock. There were bigger mountains all around us. We climbed uphill along a faint, rough and winding path for several hundred feet until we reached the top.

Here were petroglyphs everywhere, chipped into the rock. To my eyes, some were humorous, some puzzling, some recognizable, and a couple downright mysterious.  I started by questioning, trying to second guess what had driven people of early cultures to trek miles from water to make images. The sheer number of petroglyphs and the location also made me wonder what each meant and why this particular location originally attracted, and then kept, artists returning to add more petroglyphs. Geologically, the hill was pretty ordinary. Similar, nearby hills had no petroglyphs.

After a short time, I realized I was appreciating the artists’ work for itself and my questions with no definite answers were unimportant from an artistic standpoint, although vital to an archaeologist.  The shape and line that are basic to design are elements we humans understand as visual language that maintain their beauty across time. For this reason, people today are able to respond to prehistoric, primitive, ancient, modern, and contemporary art for itself.  Just as in most cases we don’t know the personal meanings of contemporary, abstract works of art to those that made them, the original meaning of most prehistoric petroglyphs evades our understanding.  This Pony Hill adventure left me looking around and marveling at the work I was experiencing, taking some ghost of it with me in photos and making plans to return.

For those wanting to visit Pony Hills, it is on Bureau of Land Management Land, near Deming, New Mexico. It is best to ask for directions at the Visitor Center and take plenty of water with you.

Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico. She received a B.A. in Art from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and awarded an M.F.A. in Painting from Kent State University in Ohio. Visit her website at www.ArtistVictoriaChick.com

NOTES:
– For more about Petroglyphs of the Southwest US, see Victoria’s article in this back issue of Big Blend Radio & TV Magazine.
– Two easier-to-reach Petroglyph sites in Southern Arizona, include: Painted Rock Petroglyph Site just off of Interstate 8, west of Gila Bend; and Signal Hill in Saguaro National Park (West) in Tucson.

Cow Trail Art Studio - Silver City, NM

 

 

 


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