BAYFIELD – Pine River Library’s newest art installation brings some of the Four Corners’ most iconic images to Bayfield through thousands of tiny pen strokes.
The 18-piece art collection, “Chaco and Beyond,” is part of the library’s rotating year-round installation series that highlights locally connected artists. Gary Gackstatter, a Missouri-based artist, created pen and ink drawings inspired by Native American history and culture while writing a symphony with R. Carlos Nakai, a Grammy Award-nominated Native American flautist of Navajo and Ute heritage. The art will be displayed until Sept. 30.
“I just think what he’s created, simply with pen and ink, is phenomenal,” said Brenda Marshall, the library’s assistant director and a member of the library’s artist selection committee. “Some of them I had to study to see how he’s managed to create this illusion of texture and distance in such a simple medium.”
Gackstatter, a music professor at St. Louis Community College, Meramec, draws from photographs that he’s taken, forming images with a crow quill pen and ink on bristol paper. The drawings require days to weeks to complete – each square inch takes about two hours to fill.
“It’s like painting with a brush that has one, tiny, tiny hair,” he said. “I find that adding layers of ink adds depth, not only visually, but it adds depth to the meaning of the piece.”
The artist has long ties to Vallecito, Bayfield and the surrounding areas. As a child, he stayed in Vallecito with his family and explored the region. For the past six years, he has continued the tradition while staying at Riverside RV Park in Bayfield for one or two months at a time. He submitted his collection to Pine River Library in part because of those connections.
“I love that library,” Gackstatter said. He said he applied at several different places, and “they took the time, looked at the artwork and said, ‘Yeah, bring it on.’”
The art collection consists of iconic landscapes and cultural objects from Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Vallecito Reservoir, Mesa Verde National Park and more.
Gackstatter said his inspiration comes from Chaco Canyon and ancestral Puebloan culture.
“It’s a sacred landscape that they built out there in almost impossible conditions,” he said. The more he has learned about ancestral Puebloan culture over time, through his work with Nakai and participation in Puebloan rituals and dances over the years, the more depth of space he feels when he visits the canyon.
“I hope that someone looking at my drawings can understand that there’s something there,” he said. “That whatever is out there at Chaco, that same thing that’s there is in those drawings.”
The professor said that as a white, non-native, there are some parts of the Native American culture that he will not see. The process of learning more about the Pueblo peoples and their cultures, he said, has changed his life.
“The more I get into it, the more respect I have for the people, the hands and the minds that created this. In my view, Chaco is a giant work of art.”