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Art imitates ancient life in new CEU exhibit

Stephanie Massie Clark discovered the San Rafael Swell four years ago and has captured the ancients' artwork on canvas.
The Whooping Crones were in the house at the June 25 reception from left to right: Bambi King, Marilyn Seastore and artist Stephanie Massie Clark.
This fellow above is one of Clark's favorites.

By CLAUDETTE LANGLEY
Sun Advocate reporter

Every year a group of seasoned women from around the country converge on the San Rafael Swell and let their creative juices flow.

This Friday an exhibit, spawned by hours spent surrounded by cliffs and around the campfire, is officially opening at the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum. Stephanie Massie Clark, 56, a charter member of the group known as the "Whooping Crones" is displaying her rich watercolor images of Buckhorn Draw's rock art.

"My images are all from the San Rafael's Buckhorn panels," said Clark at the artist's reception held June 25 at the museum. "I sketch on location and take digital slides which provide accurate color expression."

Boldly displayed at the gallery is her artist's statement splayed across a background depicting the Swell's original inhabitants.

"The stunning rock art of the the San Rafael Swell has captured my imagination forever... The strangely elongated figures extending up the rocky face of the Buckhorn Panel are more than sized. Eeriness and something close to, but not quite, fear kept me riveted to the nearby seat of rock," her statement says.

Joining the Washington State-based Clark at the reception were two her of fellow crones who also traveled in for their comrades' show.

"Stephanie and I raised our first babies together," said Bambi King, 62, from Boston.

Marilyn Seastore, 63, said her drive was the shortest of three women as she only had come in from Missoula, Montana.

The women, whose original connection started in Montana where they went to college, said they discovered the Draw four years ago. And have been making the pilgrimage ever since with several other Crones who join them at their primitive campsite.

Their yearly presence has become a given to the Emery County Sheriff's Department.

"We've gotten to know Deputy Ray Jeffs so well that one year he went and put yellow tape around our site to make sure it would be there for us," said Seastore. "He calls us 'his Montana ladies.'"

While the accommodations may be primitive it doesn't stop the ladies from indulging themselves.

"We always bring in things like Brie cheese and chocolate," said Clark.

Those forays into the Swell have created a first for Clark. After creating her tributes to the ancient artists that went before her, Clark is having her first real art show.

"I spent three years painting these," she said of the myriad of pieces gracing the gallery walls. "I have been refining and refining them."

Her attention to detail is apparent in the striking renditions of the often-ghostly like figures that are so prevalent it seems Utahns sometimes take them for granted.

Traveling about the room June 25, Clark stopped by a painting with two of the giant odd-shaped figures surrounded by creatures including what appears to be a bison.

"These guys are my favorites," she said looking up. "I spent the most time with them. They represent managing power, the responsibility of power."

Clark said her show followed her initial creative contribution to the CEU museum.

"I had already done some cards that they were selling," she said. "Then one day I tromped in covered with mud and smelling like smoke and approached them about a show for my recent work."

The intimate crowd gathered to preview Clark's work seemed sufficiently pleased by the eye candy covering the walls.

"A lot of these places I have been," Debra Bronske said, holding three prints she was purchasing.

"These are very ethereal lands and Stephanie's work has captured them richly."

Clark's work is not the Crones' only contribution to the art world, a Missoula, Mont. gallery bearing their name that displays a variety of mediums from ceramics to jewelry and of course some of Clark's watercolors.

"Images of the San Rafael" runs until September at the CEU Prehistoric Museum Art Gallery.




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