Thursday, August 10, 2023

Petroglyphic Art

The Racehorse by Carolyn J. Haas Learn more at her website

Sometimes art and geology interact producing a novel and exciting way to see our natural world. Pittsburgh based artist Carolyn J. Haas is exploring this with her petroglyphic art based on boulders, stones, and pebbles. A petroglyph is an ancient art form where images are scraped or carved into a rock surface. The petroglyphs date back to maybe 20,000 years ago. What Carolyn has done is to update this art form by bringing it into the 21st century thru the use of digital photography and Adobe Photoshop. The camera transports the rock to a digital canvas while the software acts as a chisel to bring out the artistic shapes. 

 Laxe dos carballos petroglyph, in Campo Lameiro, Galicia Spain by Froaringus on Wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Note: image cropped from original.

As Michelangelo is attributed with saying, "The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” Carolyn Haas has a similar philosophy, "Although there is no carving or rubbing with an actual hand tool, the digital tools are, in a sense, doing precisely that. Chiseling layers away while following the patterns naturally in the rock brings forth the art in the rock. These images of faces, figures, patterns, and more have always been there, waiting for discovery."

Examples of New Albany Shale nodules found in 2023

The piece I chose to highlight is called "The Racehorse". It reminds me of a Louisville area New Albany Shale nodule or from Illinois a Mazon Creek nodule. This art piece has a distinctive brown shape near its center that looks like a horse galloping right at the viewer. If one thing Louisville, Kentucky in known for, it is horse racing. So I love how this image combines geology with horses and computer technology. It can be purchased as a metallic print in either 14"x11" or 16"x20" at Her web site contains so many more geological themed art pieces so check it out.

Carolyn Haas has some exhibitions in 2023.


Gillespie Museum
at Stetson University
234 E. Michigan Avenue
DeLand, FL. 32723


Penn State New Kensington Art Gallery
115 Administration Building
3550 Seventh Street Road
New Kensington, PA. 15068