My Youthful Notion Summoned: Rainbow Bridge
40” x 40”
oil on canvas
A summer vacation in 1967 led me to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Among the many treasures I was youthfully smitten with a small 1921 oil painting of Rainbow Bridge by the great artist William R. Leigh. The next year for a book report I read Zane Grey’s descriptive encounter with Rainbow Bridge in “Down the Desert” and I determined that I wanted to see the fantastic sight.
For centuries the Navajo Indians have considered the natural bridge sacred and personifying a rainbow that guards the universe. It was not officially explored or documented until 1909 and wisely proclaimed as a national monument in 1910 by President Taft. Quickly tourists began the difficult trek, via pack animals, along ancient Navajo trails to the fabled Rainbow. Those visitors included separate journeys by Theodore Roosevelt and Zane Grey, both in 1913. Mass tourism began in 1964 with the completion of Glen Canyon Dam and a Lake Powel passageway to the foot of the massive arch.
Finally in October 2018 my own journey came true. Tom and I headed 130 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona, rented a boat for Lake Powell and navigated fifty water miles north. We began the hike up Bridge Canyon. Lake Powell was a low water levels, the drought leaving this stretch canyon looking nearly as it did pre-dam days, as Leigh would have painted it. With my back-back paint set my step hurried with first glimpse of the massive arch spanning 275 feet between the canyon walls. Standing 290 feet tall, Rainbow Bridge is a fusion of Kayenta Sandstone and Navajo Sandstone. It is simply a perfect Rainbow. Below is a carved sandstone channel with pools of flowing crystalline water and native plant life.
I saved my 14×14 study from that day, and only 56 years from that inspiring Leigh painting, I have my own interpretation on canvas.