Death Valley: Ancient Footpath from Nevares Springs to the Lake, 1996, printed 1997
gelatin silver print, toned
37.9 x 48.2 cm
Gift of the artist, Vancouver, 1999
National Gallery of Canada (no. 40203)
outline of trail leading to small hills beside lake, mountains beyond
Mark Ruwedel is an American photographer/artist who has lived in Canada for the past twenty years and now commutes between Vancouver and Los Angeles. In this series of photographs, he presents ancient sites in Death Valley, a national park in California that is rich in geological and human history. In Ruwedel's words: "Landscapes, inscribed with the evidence of many pasts, are historical archives. My work may be defined as an inquiry into the histories, cultural and natural, of places that reveal the land as being both a field of human endeavour and an agent of historical processes." The footpaths and rock alignment in Death Valley are linked to the aboriginal peoples that have occupied the area for the past 12,000 years. Once a lake, the area dried up about 2000 years ago, at which time people were forced to shift their subsistence from hunting big game to smaller animals and the gathering of seeds, nuts, and berries. The trails are direct routes to springs; the archeological sites and cultural artefacts found along them prove that they were used by the original occupants, as well as later settlers.