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Cat. no. 91-04

October Suite Grand Canyon

Date: Mar-91
Item Type: Painting
Support: Canvas (Cotton Or Linen)
Owner: Eiteljorg Museum
Dimensions: 72 X 312


October Suite, Grand Canyon. Triptych: 72 x 90, 72 x 132, 72 x 90.

We are up near the head of the Kaibab Trail that leads down the west
side of Yaqui Point on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. To the
right the sun burns the sandstone a bright gold. This golden light is
caught by the shadowed wall to the left, turning it a soft pink. You
can see the trail itself traversing the left wall as it descends
toward the Coconino cliffs. Straight ahead lies the canyon behind the
promontory on which we are standing, with the buttes of Cheops
Pyramid, Isis Temple and the broad Shiva Temple rising behind each
other bounded by Phantom and Trinity Creeks to the right and left of
them. Far away, but still in the canyon, an October rain shower falls
in the sunlight, and the wind blows cold as the bottom of the canyon
fills with the blue-gray shadows of approaching night.

On
painting Grand Canyon, Wilson wrote in January 1990 for Art of the
West magazine:

Wilson wrote general comments about the Grand
Canyon and the triptych he did for the Eiteljorg Museum:
All the
events of cracking and erosion that make up the enormous system of the
Grand Canyon have taken place within the past one hundred million
years. To begin to understand it and to be able to paint it so that
its character and anatomy are faithfully preserved one must have an
understanding of what the land was like before that time. First,
supporting the Continent, there was the base, a dark granite which has
various cracks and leaks filled with a pink feldspar pressed upwards
long ago in a hot liquid webbing pattern. On top of that base shallow
seas would lay down sediments, then as the sea dried the waters
deposited sand in flat plains. Successive periods of desert and then
ocean account for many layers of deposits. Thus as we look at the
eroded walls we see exposed a record of the continent from one hundred
million years ago on top to the granite in the dark gorge at the
bottom. The top layers are the Kaibab and Coconino sandstones. Both
are a yellow white, the lower Coconino being a denser, more compact
sandstone that causes it to weather in a smoother more vertical cliff.
Below these strata are the Hermit shales and the sandstone layer
called the Supai, both rich in red iron oxide. The rain takes this
red iron and washes it down, painting the deep wall beneath which is
known as the Red Wall. Yet where the Red Wall stands without the Supai
and Hermit shales on top of it in separate buttes or out on
promontories, the red washes off showing a yellow gray rock. The
plateaus and terraces are green in summer and brown in winter with
abundant gray sage. The north slopes grow juniper, pinon and some
pine. And the canyon is so deep and wide it creates its own ecology
and weather and has separate forms of plants and animals as one
descends a mile from the rim to the river. The secret of its character
and beauty is the faithful repetition of its many-colored strata in
every cliff, wall or standing tower, although the parts may be fifty
miles apart. This lends a pattern of coherence and grace, a harmony
of color progressions and a repetition of form to what otherwise would
be a vast chaos of unintelligible erosion.

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