Irony and Art

Scott DeCapio racking up below the route Anasazi on a gorgeous December afternoon. We had the awesome Supercrack Buttress all to ourselves, possibly a modern first.

The irony of the Anasazi art that adds to the allure of the  high desert we all love is that the drawings might’ve said the equivalent of “Natuk Wuz Hear.” I can’t carve “Kelly Roooles!” into the rock nowadays, and with good reason. We now have, to understate things, plenty enough signs of our existence. Times change.

What is art, what is vandalism, what’s an accepted eyesore and what’s too much?

We drive to the crag and we pick up our garbage. The chain anchors are OK. Tick marks are ugly and I hate ‘em. What distinguishes ticks from normal chalk?

Heck, rain washes away most – or is it only some? – of the chalk on climbs. It doesn’t rain much in the desert, and the chalk comes right back anyway, so what’s it matter?

But it’s just chalk, I use it and I love to climb and that does more good than harm because climbing and nature add so much to my life and the lives of others similarly impassioned, and it rains, and rain cleanses, and climbing is our form of art.

Tick marks and chalk alongside ancient Anasazi art on Pink Flamingo, 5.13-.

Accomplishments feed our passion, drive drives us forward, our egos get involved but ego isn’t always bad. The more beautiful the place, the more we strive to go there, and the harder the climb the more we tend to justify our means.

At its core, aesthetics pull deeply at our love for nature. The balance of aesthetics, healthy egos, and love for a place?

Most everything exists along a spectrum, one rife with irony, personal shifts, and preferences. In my world, along my spectrum, the irony of huge tick marks alongside ancient Anasazi art is just a bit too much. Even if it’s a hard route.

3 thoughts on “Irony and Art

  1. you are walking a fine line here Kelly. When I started climbing I told myself (no I *commanded* myself) that I wouldn’t climb on a route where either ancient art existed and might be ruined by me climbing it or on routes where climbers can cause harm to the rock (because the rock is soft, or other reasons). However the allure of a hard route can be too much and can tempt me to climb anyway.
    So far I’ve been true to what I said to myself and I passed on good climbs because I didn’t want to ruin art.
    This, of course, is my personal opinion and I have nothing against people climbing those routes. Damn, i’ll probably be on the ground either belaying the person (on short 1-pitch routes) or cheering for him/her.
    Anyway, I’ll stop my rant now….
    Awesome pictures on the post!

  2. thanks, Uri. yeah, fine line for sure. hope I made clear that I realize those fine lines, in acknowledging my own feelings along the spectrum, self-justifications, etc — why do i think chains and chalk are ok but tick marks aren’t? good question. and then tick marks and chalk by ancient art? and my opinions on it surely vary from those of others. yeah, degrees and fine lines abound. interesting to think about. if it were all black and white, then we’d go for the argument that if you were a true environmentalist, you’d kill yourself. while true on one hand, it would also be therefore true that the opposite holds — nothing matters, and so why not throw your garbage out the window, carve your initials into your neighbor’s porch, pour anti-freeze down the drain, and the list goes on.

    in thinking about it more — not that i have it figured out by any means — i think what does it for me in this case is the relativity and proximity of something so obnoxious as tick marks literally a few feet away from petroglyphs. especially considering all the options for climbing that one has at the Creek. indeed the allure of a hard route is a strong pull — obviously, right? i mean, people ignored what would seem, to me and many others, an obvious place to show some restraint.

    so many levels to much of this. sure, there’s a road right there, right? and so what’s some chalk? maybe. thus, carving my initials with the Motorhead band logo into the rock also pales in comparison to the road. and, again, why not huck our garbage out the window?

    i’m a bit of a cynic about humanity’s future (hard not to be). so part of me thinks, “why give a shit?” indeed, too, climbing by the petroglyphs doesn’t truly *matter* in the world-view scope (though it could get us restrictions, ala Hueco Tanks, but let’s not get into that).

    hmmm, as i think things through (sorry for the rambles), maybe it’s as simple as how you want to be as a person — regardless of whether it matters to the world. to me, the contrast between a show of ego (btw, not saying that’s a bad thing — i have a huge ego, as does anyone who’s driven; the key, imo, is to not be an egotistical dickhead) and what would have been a show of respect and restraint to this gorgeous ancient art, well, it’s just a bit much on my scale, my opinion. maybe just a bit too close, too profound, too ironic. but that road, now, it’s different…er, well, yeah, fine lines everywhere, i agree.

    ok, off to carve my initials in tommy’s porch.

    cheers, kelly

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