Artist Finds Long-Lasting Inspiration Through Crow Canyon’s Archaeology Research Project

Posted May 9, 2019

The sprawling, stark desert landscapes of the American Southwest have long drawn artists from around the world looking for inspiration. For Scott Evans, it’s the oft-hidden story of how humans have adapted, survived, and thrived for thousands of years in this sometimes unforgiving land that has provided not only artistic inspiration but a deep passion for the study of past cultures.

That passion, and the friendships and deep connections he’s made along the way, are what brings him back to the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center year after year.

In the 1980s and 90s, Scott—who taught printmaking, design, and drawing at Idaho State University before retiring in 2016—found a visual interest in ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings and other structures when he visited the Four Corners area with his wife, Paula. During one trip, he spotted a Crow Canyon rack card in a Cortez motel and hoped that one day he would be able to participate in a weeklong Archaeology Research Program.

Finally, in 1998, Scott attended his first Crow Canyon excavation program. He hasn’t missed one since.

“I return to Crow Canyon because for me it is a place that befriends and rejuvenates,” says Scott. “Every visit to Crow Canyon has provided me with some new discovery and the people connected with the center have always given of themselves so generously.”

Scott says that the connection between archaeology and his art runs deep. He says there have been numerous direct influences, as well as smaller moments that have been collected over the years and filed away for future use. One of the first pieces that he developed out of his Crow Canyon excavation experiences began years ago with a trench at Shields Pueblo.

“(I created) an etching titled As The Crow Flies, and it dealt with the direct line from one point to another. In just five or six steps as I descended into the trench I traveled across centuries, from modern ground surface advanced technology to kiva floor and artifacts that perhaps were the most advanced of their day.”

“Moments such as this are what I take away as source material,” says Scott. “A fact or concept shared in an evening program, an artifact or feature revealed during excavation, observations about lives of past inhabitants compared to our own, all become fuel for some future creative fire.”

He says that Crow Canyon’s current research project, the Northern Chaco Outliers Project, has led him to re-engage a series of etchings that he started years ago with the overarching title of Outlier.

“This is a project about detachment and connection, imitation and influence as well as expansion and escape,” he says.

Scott says that he always tries to bring two thoughts with him when he goes out onto a site to do excavation work. The first is the message that Crow Canyon tries to instill in all of our program participants—”It’s not what you find, it’s what you find out.”

“I learned early on that the best way to feel a sense of accomplishment was not to worry about how many artifacts I was finding but to focus more on the excavation I was performing,” says Scott. “My goal is to dig a good ‘hole,’ letting that be the valuable contribution to the advancement of that unit.”

Scott adds that the second thought he brings with him to the field took some time to fully cultivate and keep at the top of his mind—being respectful of both the place and the people and culture who call it home.

“I believe it is important to show the utmost respect for the site and the unit in which one is working, because that midden or that structure was and is someone’s home environment,” says Scott.

Scott says that it’s almost impossible to list all of the experiences, influences, and inspirations he’s gained over 20 years of programs with Crow Canyon.

“I return to Crow Canyon because I enjoy contributing a small yet meaningful fraction to a greater whole, a contribution that is richly appreciated by all at this institution. That is Crow Canyon’s way – to invite and welcome, to enlighten and encourage, to entertain and to challenge – to value and nurture each individual,” says Scott. “It is an experience that I can acquire nowhere else.”

For more information on how you can be a part of Crow Canyon’s Archaeology Research Program, click here or call 800-422-8975, ext. 451.