Welcome to MissouriBendStudio!

This is an online journal of my artistic investigations and a way to communicate about my work, ideas, quandries and queries! I welcome comments and conversation and do hope you enjoy these musings. My artwork is available in my shop MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.com or on my website.


Monday, September 13, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: Cairns

So, here we are with the first feature post in A Walk Through The Universe. The first subject in this journey has to be the cairn, which I first learned about several years ago as I read a wonderful book by Sheila Nickerson, Disappearance: A Map, A Meditation on Death & Loss In The High Altitudes.  Written from her home in Alaska, this book is a beautiful meditation on the lost and missing and on disappearance, both actual and as metaphor. In it, she mentions cairns, the rock piles made by explorers setting off into the unknown, in which they placed records of their journeys (or often the actual records were placed 10 feet truth north) along the way, including such things as projected routes, condition of the members of the party, previous routes traveled, discoveries, claims, etc.  They were leaving the trace for those that would come after, whether a search party, later expeditions or the unknown future generations.

The trace, leaving the record of our having passed...isn't that really what all of us are doing...I lived, I made this, I made a small difference in the world by having passed by here?  Such a simple gesture, piling up the rocks laying about, themselves a record of place and time. Sending a message to those who come after, forging the link in the unseen chain that binds us, one to another, generation after generation.

So, in the last few days, I began seeking more information about these small rock piles and my search brought forth some rich and delightful surprises all connected to a fellow by the name of Bill Dan of San Francisco.  He has been engaged for a number of years now in the work that has taken the utilitarian notion of the rock cairn to a stunning new level.  These pieces are all about beauty and balance and a kind of quiet defiance, as you'll see.

Bill provides a wealth of information and links regarding rock piles and cairns on his website here and on his delightful blog here. He graciously provided the following photos of his work, as well as links to his blog just for kids here and some video here.

I've barely had time to explore his sites, but I know there is such treasure awaiting me...these images take my breath away! They speak so powerfully to so very many things with such an economy of means.  Perhaps you're thinking the same thing I am...next week's Walk Through the Universe has to be about "balance"...


  1. The Italians have a saying that a good day can be seen by the morning - so I'd say your new feature will be great judging by this first installment! Beautiful images, will have to check out this guy. Reminds me of Andy Goldsworthy and Rivers & Tides...his rock scultpure/assemblages standing out in natural settings. Except many of his are designed to fall apart, quite the opposite of "leaving a trace," but somehow bringing that theme to the fore even moreso...thanks for sharing this, P! Can't wait for the next step of the journey...

  2. Great to hear from you, my faithful blog-mate! I'm glad you like this post...I was very excited to have my idea fall into place so easily and am looking forward to exploring Bill Dan's sites! Thanks for writing!

  3. That's so interesting! I've seen stacked rocks in several places that we've traveled and I always wondered why so many people do this. Now I know! Thanks for sharing this information and blog!

  4. It is fascinating...maybe you'll be stacking some rocks as well! Glad to hear from you!


I'm happy to hear from you...comments and questions are welcome!