Shaun O'Dell


December 13, 2012 – January 20, 2013



December 13, 2012 - January 20, 2013


(excerpt from artist's statement) 

In the morning the wind was still blowing hard. We drove through Hopi Land and watched the sky turn milky yellow with sand. When we stopped for gas the car rocked back and forth and you could hear tiny sounds of granite granules pelting the windshield. A starving stray horse chewed dead grass in the ditch between the road and the gas station. We arrived at First Mesa around noon and parked just below the 1100-year-old village of Walpi perched there on the cliff. We started walking up the hill, slitting our eyes against the sharp wind. As the road leveled off and we started to enter the village a single-file line of Kachina dancers emerged from the doorway of a stone house. They were chanting and stomping out a rhythm. We followed them through the tightly packed houses and emerged onto a large plaza. A woman offered us seats on a wooden bench and we watched the dancers for a few hours. The dancers wore different masks. One of them, we learned later, was the “Snow Dancer.” The ceremony was the rain dance. It is performed not only to bring rain but also to maintain contact with the supernatural world and to bring the community together. During a break the dancers handed out baskets of corn and fruit and vegetables. We left after about 3 1/2 hours. Time had slowed down. The wind was relentless and we were filled with sand. We drove west through grey hills and yellow wind toward the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.


When we passed over the Colorado River at Marble Canyon the sky was beginning to turn blue again. We stopped at an overlook where you can walk out over the river on a pedestrian bridge. The wind was still blowing but it was no longer filled with sand. We also saw rain clouds moving eastward toward Hopi Land. As we climbed in elevation toward Jacob Lake the temperature dropped and it started raining lightly. When we checked in there was a chalkboard weather report calling for snow that night. We unloaded the car and then drove 44 miles to the rim of the canyon. We passed through snow flurries on the way. The sun was setting when we arrived and the canyon was streaked with orange light in the places that weren’t grey from the dark clouds above. The air was frosty and filled with pine. We walked a trail that followed a narrow ridge to a viewpoint that dropped straight down thousands of feet into the canyon. We talked about the people who had fallen or jumped or were pushed from places like this. We looked at the stratified layers of the canyon walls and remembered what the Navajo jogger had said about the 2 billion year-old Pre-Cambrian granite at Canyon de Chelly. The amount of information visible all at once was overwhelming, sublime even. We followed the trail for a couple of miles along the rim until it was dark and cold.

We found the lodge bar and talked about what we had seen over the last few days. There was a fire and it was nice to be warm and getting a little high. When we stepped back into the night to leave we saw a few inches of snow covering the ground. The wind had picked up again and now instead of red clouds of sand obscuring the road it was blowing snow. We drifted a few times and I white-knuckled the steering wheel on the icy road. I had to flip back and forth between the high and low beams to keep from going cross-eyed as I stared into the chaos of swirling snowflakes and blackness. I felt heavy with the responsibility of keeping the car on the road. There were moments when the combination of alcohol, the black of night, the illuminated on-rushing snowflakes and the whiteness of the snow-covered road gave me the sensation of traveling through outer space. It was like the effect they use in sci-fi movies to indicate warped speed. It created a kind of vertigo and a few times it momentarily seemed like the car had dissolved and that I was falling alone through a star-streaked void. Then suddenly I would feel the car back around me and on the road again. This cycle of feeling adrift in space and then back again continued for a good part of the drive back to the hotel.