Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The White House- Refurbished

From the title of this post do you think I am trying to work the search engine thing to attract politico's? I know there is money in politics- maybe I can crowbar some into the art world.

 White House Ruin, photo, as it is today

Painter friend Roger Williams recently put out a pic of a painting he completed - a rendition of the White House Ruin, probably the most stunning setting for any Ancestral Pueblo structure in the southwest. It was a great painting- I liked it so much I copied it! Roger's and maybe another 100 or so that have been done since the discovery of the ruin in the 1880's.
Roger's painting reminded me of the several times I have been to Canyon De Chelly in northeastern Arizona, where White House is just one of dozens of ruins peppered about the canyon. It spurred me to gather up materials from my trips and attempt a rendition of the White House, tucked in a cavern beneath the huge escarpments of patina-stained sandstone.
I painted the scene on location many years ago and the painting sold immediately. I wanted to do another right away but, until now, had not gotten around to it.
I have learned much about this structure over the many decades. One of the nuggets from my recent research was that these sandstone block buildings were either constructed by Chaco People, or supervised by them. I am referring to the Ancestral Pueblo culture centered around Chaco Canyon in what is now northwestern New Mexico.  These engineering farmers flourished throughout the Four Corners region for a centuries ( 900 to 1200 AD), building networks of connections leaving their distinctive masonry pueblos scattered throughout a vast and spectacular region.
The Chaco builders at White House left behind tell-tale engineered, pre-planned thick base walls built to hold the weight of the multiple stories above them that have since crumbled. They were visionary builders who knew well in advance the completed height of their constructions.
We know the canyon bottom pueblo was four stories tall because of the pictographs seen today far above the canyon floor. They were painted from the rooftops of the fourth story. We can still see where the ladder left its rub marks on the cliff face from the forth floor of the lower pueblo. The ladder was the only way to get up to the cave where they built a tidy complex. The uppermost rooms of the cave complex had its south facing walls whitewashed- a singular rarity and the only one I am aware of. What a tantalizing mystery- who lived in the White House?

Floor Plan of the White House

showing both the upper and lower sections.

As I progressed through the painting I got to the point of rendering the ruins. One of my musings when looking at ruins is imagining them when they were actively lived in- with fresh mud on the walls, covering the meticulous stonework, tools and pottery scattered about work areas, the canyon echoing the soft voices of the daily village life.
So I did just that.
Tree ring dates showed that almost all of the timbers used to build the pueblo were cut around 1070 A.D. I imagined myself back then and painted what I thought what may have been there.


"The White House, 1072 A.D."  oil on linen   24" x 18"
Thus, here is another peek into the past. If you like this post , and painting, you may be interested in my previous post on my reconstruction of Penasco Blanco in Chaco Canyon (Exploring the Past, Feb. 2014)

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