CHINA LAKE NAVAL AIR WEAPONS STATION, Calif.
Arguably the least accessible art gallery in the world opens its doors in intervals between missile salvos and roadside bombings.
It’s open only when the airspace is clear of B-52 armadas loaded with the latest in laser-guided and bunker-busting weaponry and after prospective visitors undergo a thorough security check, during which foreign nationals will be unapologetically weeded out.
When the smoke clears and security suspicions are put to rest, the art treasure in southeastern California presents itself to the public in all of its creative effusiveness and primitive mysticism.
There is no way to underestimate the importance of what is hidden in shallow lichen-covered canyons in the middle of this sprawling top-secret weapons-testing range the size of Delaware.
“There is nothing that compares with it in North America — from Barrow, Alaska, to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec; from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon.”
The somber rocks of Little Petroglyph Canyon offer a cool shade from the desert sun — and silence.
No voices, no litter, no human footprints on the sandy bottom. Just the gentle rustle in the wind of creosote bushes on the rim.
And drawings — hundreds of them streaming like an endless kaleidoscope alongside the walls of this unique open-air gallery created by nature — yet decorated by man.
There are scenes of hunt and scenes of war. Men with spears and women with towering hairdos.
The artist, thought to be an early descendent of the Shoshonean tribes, managed to etch in stone rain and lightning, grief and joy.
There are countless carvings of bighorn sheep, birds and even a mysterious long-necked animal that has all the appearance of a giraffe and whose identity scientists still try to ascertain.
“We believe it is sort of like a diary,” says Richard Stewart, an Owens Valley Paiute tribal elder, as he surveys the canyon with silent pride. “Indians in general like to draw pictures when they tell a story. That’s what you see here.”
A four-wheel-drive revs up its engine, climbs a roadless hill and stops in front of two rock outcroppings in sight of a shiplike plywood structure that cannot be photographed but that, base guides say, is being used by B-52 crews for shooting down laser beams in mock attacks.View Entire Story
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