The Journey Into Art: Desert Cliffs

February 9, 2022  |  New Mexico

“If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”

- Edward Hopper

Desert Cliffs 3
Desert Cliffs 3


Sometimes I wander into a place and find something completely unexpected and breath-taking. In this case I rounded a corner of a dry riverbed, and there were these white clay cliffs that had lines strung across them in every direction. The cliffs were intricate layers and lines of clay compressed and eroded over millions of years. The longer I looked, the whiter they became. The whiter they became, the more they drew me in.

The patterns etched across these faces were complex and never repeated themselves. I was speechless and captivated.

The experience was so overwhelming that I did not even look to start selecting and processing the files until over two months later. Yet even then, I immediately remembered the delight, fascination, and participation in the moments as if it were right in front of me now.

I remember being so overwhelmed that there were no words trying to describe what I was seeing and feeling. Only later when I started looking at the files did Hopper's famous quote come to mind. One of the gifts of photography and art is that they express that for which words are inadequate. Here were my wordless expressions.

This series can be simply described as how I remembered these cliffs. Transparent whiteness, subtle colors, mixed lines, and all embraced in a great stillness. There was time to listen to the deep stillness that kept this area. It was a palatial, inviting, conversant space. Words seemed so small, and I felt stretched to my limits to grasp the experience to its fullest.

Times like this likely happen when the unexpected meets the vulnerable. I did not know what to expect of my time walking this area, so there was a feeling of something unexpected up ahead. I was vulnerable to be so captivated by a beauty for which I was unprepared.

Beholding a great beauty is always overwhelming, even more so when it appears unexpectedly.

On the one hand, narrowing down that monumental experience to only five prints seems as inadequate as trying to describe it in words. Yet, as I spent more time with these prints, I came to see that I had indeed expressed the essence of that time. More prints would be too many. Fewer not enough.

The entire series can be seen here.

Desert Cliffs 1
Desert Cliffs 1