"MUKUNTUWEAP," Enrico Cullen, Video, April 2012
I spent a month living in a sandstone cabin in Zion National Park to create this film. I proposed recording "gentle disturbances," those times when a surreal experience challenges our conception of a national park, where the familiar is combined with the unknown.
To achieve my artist goal, I mostly avoided the iconic images of the park. The Zion in this film is not meant to show the beauty of a geological and humanless past. Instead, I focused on places where I thought a new reality could be forged, one that is often right in front of us and sometimes quite familiar; one that includes human voices and human activities, as Zion does today, but also gives us a renewed sense of nature and our place in it.
The title, MUKUNTUWEAP, is the Paiute name for Zion Canyon.
The month I spent there was invaluable. I definitely still feel humbled in my attempt to capture such immense and dramatic beauty. All oils were done in my studio from sketches or photographs. Painting realistically does not seem to interest me (as you can see). Most pieces have some playful inventive license. I work on making bold, solid rock and lively color.
I did two versions of this piece – a study while I was at Zion and the one the Park now has. It seemed particularly apt that I create that one in a larger studio version after my visit because it’s the view across a parcel of private land originally grandfathered in at the Park’s creation – at least that’s my understanding – and the Park acquired it while I was in residence. I also was quite taken with the less conventional “backside” view of the canyon peaks.
I was beginning to explore using torn paper to paint large individual portraits of burned trees, so the trees could be expressed in their shapes. I think I actually got the inspiration to do this while hiking in Zion (the first two close-up studies of char were rectangular). After I returned home I painted a number of those Zion trees, one of which the Park later bought (“Partial Scar”).
I did another one as recently as last year (“Blazed” sold at the 2017 Plein Air event), for a total of 8 so far (which is quite a proportion of the 33 total from all over the western US). I decided to try shaping the paper for the larger version of Sunset Ranch, so its skyline casts the same kind of relief shadow that the tree paintings do. The image attached is where I made a digital test of what the torn edge larger version might look like.
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Last updated: February 23, 2019