I’m at an arts residency in Ucross, Wyoming, population 25. It’s pretty amazing here- the vast dun high plains full of turkeys and deer, the blue Bighorn Mountains off to the west, and me in my studio carving piles of linoleum blocks.
I’ve been going on bike rides up into the hills everyday, hiking through the weird hoodoo rocks and digging in slumped hillsides for crystals. Finding skulls, bones, watching badgers and rabbits and picking plants. Today I looked up at a hillside in which I could see five petrified trees, weathering slowly out of the landscape. I looked from there across to the earth-slide where I’d been an hour earlier, where a dark band of red had proven to be a thick compressed mat of shells and marine debris, and when I looked back at the stone trees I realized that they were below the shells.
Oceans have come and gone in this part of the continent many many times over the last hundred million years. The layer of shells was laid down by a rapid outflow of a shallow inland ocean- an ocean which had steamed and fumed ten feet above an already ancient forest, entombed in mud and silt and turning slowly into rock. I realized that all the linocut prints I’ve been working on while I’ve been here are about just that- inverted oceans, fish swimming through forests, through cities, sharks swimming through ruined churches, the drowning of Columbus before he could reach this continent – the world turned upside down.