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Crossing open ground exhibit on view at CEU Prehistoric Museum

Charles Huckeba talks about his creations during a reception at the CEU Prehistoric Museum in May. Huckeba has created a unique rendition of the rock art that is present in Range Creek.

An art exhibit of the art of petroglyphs is on display in the mezanene level at the College of Eastern Utah's Prehistoric Museum. That are by well know artist Charles Huckeba.

As all Huckeba collectors know, this guy lives to explore, adventure and discover the where-abouts of petroglyphs and pictographs.

`This unquenchable thirst comes from his childhood, when he used to roam and cross the open ground on his grandmother's forty acres of Texas hill country west of Boerne, Texas.

Several years ago, visitors to his exhibitions would tell him about a new site in Utah that National Geographic had written about. It was in a number of newspapers around the country as well as on the internet. The stories were about Range Creek.

Last year Karen Green, a museum employee, informed him about the canyon. Through her wildlife ranger husband (Alan Green) Huckeba was able to procure an administrative permit to enter the canyon this last June 2008.

"Down the middle of the canyon with its nine thousand foot mountains runs a creek year round," he said. "The canyon is filled with numerous rock art sites at many elevation levels. Most of the upper levels require rock climbing, ropes and rappelling skills. The verticality of this canyon and it's early peoples is staggering and not for those with height fears. There was one cliff edge pictograph site that was too much for me to traverse."

Perhaps the next trip will bolster his courage to not look down and just go-for-it. This opportunity to enter Range Creek was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Huckeba is a contemporary painter with a fine arts degree and graduate study from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he studied under an outstanding faculty of contemporary artists such as Larry Rivers and Irma Cavat. His influences are varied, including Paul Klee, Jean Dubuffet, Adolf Gotlieb, Cy Twombly, Wassily Kandinski and Joan Miro. Charles and his wife, Jill, have spent years exploring and recording the rich lode of prehistoric pictographs and petroglyphs found in the Western United States Great Basin.

In 1993, Huckeba began combining and integrating various painting techniques developed from his academic foundation to render rock art designs he had seen into a contemporary presentation. The results are works held in corporate collections of The University of Northern Arizona, The University of California at Santa Barbara Art Museum, The CEU Prehistoric Museum, and The Museum of the San Rafael. His abstract contemporary art is also shown in fine art galleries in Arizona. Huckeba's paintings are held by numerous private collectors throughout the United States, England and France, including actress Lilly Tomlin and archaeologist and writer, David S. Whitley, Ph.D.

"Rock art is the first American abstract art," he said. "What brings a petroglyph to life is the stone beneath the patina (a varnish created by the desert heat and elements over thousands of years.) As the surface patina of the rock is removed, the interior is exposed. This is how we see the prehistoric artist's mark. My paint application is multi-layered and textural. The image elements are scratched, etched and scoured under and over the stratas of pigment much as the numerous superimpositions found in petroglyphs. My goal is to build a link between contemporary and prehistoric art. It is another world isolated from the city life. Even more difficult is to imagine prehistoric Americans living there hundreds and even thousands of years ago traveling back and forth and up and down canyon walls, cliffs and rimrock. Standing before a two hundred foot cliff looking at a granary embedded in a crevice left me in awe. From one who has fears of precipitous heights, I give much respect to those ancient climbers and lizard like rock scalers. Today, as one looks at the rock art, one cannot help but wonder what stories are within the art about day to day living in this deep and very steep secluded canyon."

The exhibit at the museum runs through June with the hours at the museum running from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday until the end of the summer.

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