Inspirations From The Earth’s Crust

This is the most dramatic picture that leapt off my computer screen this week. I just can’t stop smiling at it. No one knows for sure how it was formed, and discussion online ranges between it somehow being deliberately split by some unknown ancient civilisation and a product of erosional processes. When you think of it, if you cropped the photo it would look like just another vertical cliff face somewhere, but the photo in full begs the question ‘how come this bit of vertical cliff was left behind after such an extensive erosion process in that area?’ I’m very interested in both fields, neither extreme seems convincing, and the answer doesn’t matter much to me, so I’m not theorising here. I’m just intrigued by the drama of these two massive blocks of stone appearing to be balanced on relatively small pedestals or plinths.

The Al Naslaa rock, Saudi Arabia, (source Wikipedia)

We all live on the Earth’s crust of course, but not everyone has more than a passing interest in the familiar features of the landscape around them, and I’d suggest ‘the weather’ occupies more time per day in human minds. Also, most people live their whole lives in the area in which they were born and raised, without direct experience of other parts of the Earth with different mega shapes and textures. My early interest in physical geography probably began with the different sunday drives and school holiday road trips that our parents took us on as we grew up in the Australian state of Tasmania. In our childhoods we learned about the economic activities in various areas, they took us to see things like a power station under construction. We travelled on trains – air travel was rare and expensive. My parents knew people who lived on sheep farms, ran diaries, apple orchards and fished commercially. Dad’s best mate ran a furniture factory so we learned a bit about wood and forests during our travels. Dad’s brother was an industrial chemist who was involved in a paper mill which I did see in operation long ago. A friend of his took ours and another family underground in a silver lead zinc mine he managed. Tasmania is pretty rugged, with mountains and plateaus in the centre, and the western side of the island has particuarly inaccessible hardwood forest covered mountains and steep sided river valleys. Moving to the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia with my exploration geologist husband was my first encounter with very flat expansive semi desert regions and the sparse vegetation that results from low rainfall. It was one part of the huge culture shock of the totally new experience of living in a goldmining city, Kalgoorlie. Mike’s work in 70s and 80s took us the other parts of the Australian Outback, each with distinctively different landscape types, and our love of camping and road trips took us through more really remote parts that mobile phone coverage has rendered less ‘remote’ these days. When we were young, far Outback tourism was too difficult for most people outside mining and pastoral companies to undertake, but these days modern fourwheel drive vehicles and highly sophisticated camping gear enable many to undertake trips to places that we were fortunate to experience nerly fifty years ago courtesy of some of Mike’s employers, and what I call our Tent Period took us to the Northern Territory to live in a tent camp, in an area that has since been gazetted Kakadu National Park. In the 80s we spent 6+ years in Denver CO and visited many of the most famous national parks and monuments in the United States, many of which are based on extraordinary geological features. In further travels in Egypt, France, England, New Zealand, Chile, Southern Argentina Uruguay and The Falkland Islands, either employment or recreational tourism related, physical geography has always been interesting to me.

My geologist husband ‘sees’ the lines and shapes of and landscape as the surface results of the powerful tectonic forces acting beneath the Earth’s crust. I ‘see’ the lines and shapes of plains, mountains, lakes, valleys and mesas as results of the eternal erosion and deposition cycles through wind, water and temperature variation, and sometimes as a result of human activity, as in these next pics. Digging into the Earth’s crust to extract minerals is one of the most interesting human activities, and has always been tied to our family’s economic well being. So it’s hardly surprising that has been an inspiration to my art on several occasions –

An opencut mine in paint and stitch. It is just possible to see small trees and possibly buildings or heaframes on the distant surface. c.1987 Approx. 18″ x 24″
“On The Golden Mile” 1987, approx. 16 x 24in. Paint+ hand stitch.
“Hannan’s Reward” 1993. 100cm x 140cm Machine pieced and quilted.

We see/read the same view of the Earth’s surface in different ways, and I have always found landscapes a rich source of inspiration for my embroidery and contemporary quilt designs.

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