Kirk Gittings presents Canyons of the Ancients in a new context

Albuquerque photographer Kirk Gittings, Canyons of the Ancients’ first Artist-in- Residence, focused heavily on the mythological qualities of the dramatic and unique landscape. His primary  tool was a large-format 4x5-inch view camera, which demands a slow and deliberate approach to the craft.

Photograph of archaeological site within Canyons of the Ancients National Monument by Kirk Gittings.
Artist-in-Residence Kirk Gittings took photographs of landscapes and artifacts throughout Canyons of the Ancients using a large-format 4x5-inch camera. Photo by BLM.

“My first mythological landscape was my childhood home west of Albuquerque,” says Gittings. “Surrounded by volcanoes, Sandia Peak, Ladron Peak and Mount Taylor, my brother and I invented personal mythologies. I learned later that prominent landforms feature prominently in Native American origin stories, and that tourist stops along Route 66 are mythologized versions of cowboy culture and the Old West.”

Oil painting by Artist-in-Residence Jeff Potter.
Artist-in-Residence Jeff Potter used oil painting to showcase Canyons of the Ancients' majestic, unique and fragile landscape, as well as the ancient dwellings and ways of life. Photo by BLM. 

Similarly, Gittings saw Canyons of the Ancients’ expanse of canyons and mesas as a mythological landscape with aesthetic and historic qualities to inspire residents and visitors alike. He spent a week immersed in the monument’s landscapes, learning their inner story and creating photos. Gittings’ acclaimed book Chaco Body, written with poet V. B. Price, became the first part of a long-term project to reimagine the Southwest in mythic terms.

Gittings has presented his work to the American Institute of Architects and the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as at Chaco Canyon and the University of New Mexico.

Esther Rogers playing the cello.
During her tenure as Artist-in-Residence at Canyons of the Ancients, Esther Rogers composed music for and played the cello, drawing inspiration from the scenery around her. Photo by BLM.