City Spelunking

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Playground street sign

I’ve been officially obsessed with ancient art for approximately 336 hours, which began when my teacher first lectured on Egyptian dynastic art. The confident, unchanging, steely, mysterious, strong, ordered beauty of faces like this were so powerful that I almost couldn’t look them in the eye.

Even before this newfound passion of mine (if you recall, I was quite skeptical about ancient art at the start of the term), I constantly searched for traces of ancient art in the modern world. It’s my way of pulling art from the past and interacting with it, especially since I can’t buy tickets to Lascaux quite yet.

So far, apart from a serendipitous adventure or two, I’d come up short. How to connect prehistoric history to the present? Then I went on a night walk.

The dark streets of the South Eugene Neighborhood became a deep cave, rows of black tree trunks forming stalagmites and the yellow streetlamps transforming into flaming torches. Suddenly, street signs that I’ve passed countless times were blatant representations of the use of stark profile that is typical of art from the Paleolithicto the Early Dynastic. The playground figures hold almost exactly the same purpose as the ancient art- to represent as clearly as possible the human figure.

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Tammi Santana, Hydrant, 21st and Harris,

Tiny hand prints on a fire hydrant, painted by an elementary schooler for the S.U.N.A. Painted Fire Hydrant Project, brought up the same mysteries as the Paleolithic hand prints at Pech-Merle. Are they signatures? Simply aesthetic? Somewhere in between?

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Tree house tapestry, detail

A tattered cloth hanging from a tree house became a tribute to the famous “volcano” mural/map from the Neolithic city of Catal Huyuk.

Okay, so I’m giving my inner art nerd free reign here, but the glowing streets of a city at night lend themselves to alchemy and transfiguration. After my ancient art discovery, I peered up at the infinitely more ancient stars and spun around and around. What are you looking at, Nanna? What wonders have you seen?

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