Basque Arborglyphs of the Great Basin
For more than half a century, Jean and Phillip Earl of Reno used clues from old maps, letters, and books to hunt for and document “Mountain Picassos,” distinctive figures carved into aspen trees found in the high country meadows of the Great Basin. These figures, along with names, dates, and sayings, were carved by Basque sheepherders in the early to mid-20th century. The Earls evolved a unique method of preserving the carvings using canvas and artists’ wax to create rubbings, two-dimensional representations of the carvings that are works of art themselves, eventually assembling over 130 wax-on-muslin rubbings made directly from the carvings.
Mountain Picassos explores the unexpected intersection of art, culture, and nature. This exhibit comprises 26 of these rubbings–along with text panels, contextual photographs, and streaming video. It provides a rare opportunity to see some of the intimate personal images carved by Basque sheepherders in the Aspen groves of the Great Basin during the first half of the 20th century.
The exhibit was curated by Sheryln HayesZorn (Nevada Historical Society) and Patricia A. Atkinson (NAC Folklife Program), in consultation with the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Jean and Philip Earl and with support from Nevada Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.