The Petrified Forest: Cultural Monuments

Cultural Monuments: The Painted Desert Inn, The Main Visitors’ Center, Route 66 Memorial, Oil on masonite, 2010

This is the second “set” of paintings that seem to have their own chorus within the group of seventeen paintings. The paintings, from top to bottom, are first, the Spanish Revival adobe structure which served for a time as a Harvey House hotel, was almost torn down, and is now a gift shop and museum with some wonderful artifacts from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.

The middle painting is from the courtyard that faces into the main visitors’ center of the Park, a building part of a large complex designed by Richard Neutra in the 1960s, when the Park Service renovated and updated many of its facilities, modernizing and working with the interstate highways and increasing number of visitors. The Neutra complex is now under fire for renovation, reconstruction, or preservation (depending on who you talk to), just as the Painted Desert Inn, at the top was 40 years ago.

And the last painting is comes from the Route 66 history of the Park, which predates both the Painted Desert Inn and the Neutra complex. Route 66 was one of the main ways people got to the Park; finished around 1927, it was a famous western highway, going from Chicago to LA, and running right through the Petrified Forest region. People who traveled on Route 66 might have stayed at the predecessor to the Painted Desert Inn, parts of which still exist under the adobe. That building, also a lodging and stop for visitors to the park was made of the petrified logs for which the park is named. Some of those logs are incorporated into the adobe structure.

So the natural monuments, 225 million years ago, are counterbalanced by the historic monuments from the US period of the region, dating back to the 1920s.

As I observed the visitors to the Park, it struck me that they saw all these “monuments,” these park elements, as somehow the same — relics of something slightly puzzling. The Park only made sense to me after I had been there and read about it over those weeks of the residency. It’s no wonder that a drive-though day of touristing left some people slightly bewildered. –June

The continuation of this post shows each painting individually.

The Painted Desert Inn, Looking Northwest, 12 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010

The Richard Neutra Visitor Center from the Plaza, 12 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010

Route 66 and Interstate 40, 12 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010

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