Thanks to Lois Manno, Santa Fe artist and writer I became aware of the exhibit: “Visions Underground: Carlsbad Caverns trough the Artist’s Eye”. On the opening day, October 25, 2008, Carlsbad Caverns National Park was also celebrating its 85th birthday.
I arrived early, saw the beautiful exhibit with delight but didn’t meet anybody I knew. Somehow I missed the actual celebrations and speeches, although I noticed an enormous “model” on a long table guarded by smiling ladies, which (as I learned later) was a cake! THE CAKE!
A terrible migraine must be blamed for my disorientation, but 6 aspirins and a cup of coffee made me feel better, so I decided to visit the caverns taking the natural entrance.
I saw this 8th wonder of the world years ago with my family and a throbbing and noisy crowd. In the season about 7000 people visit the caverns every day!
That Saturday, when most visitors were being held by celebrations and a cake upstairs, a park ranger actually had to wait for a small group and finally send 5 people on the way down. Everybody rushed forward and I was left alone.
An amazing experience started with my first steps. Groups of chirping bats were still zooming in and out of the cavern (it was about 10 am), preparing to migrate for winter to Mexico, I think. Smelling a faint odor of guano I was walking lower and lower in a silence, nobody around.
What I saw during those 3 hours underground made me speechless, trembling, my heart beating faster. I felt so small, fragile, unimportant, even ridiculous aiming my camera at wonders produced in darkness by Nature and incomprehensible length of time. The magnitude of this world and its processes is frightening and unimaginable for a human being with such a short life spun.
It was a world from a cruel and bizarre fairy tale, enchanted into a cold stone existence, all in enormous proportions, mixed into unbelievable variety of columns, statues, cathedrals, grottos, boulders, bottomless holes, towers, forests, chandeliers, drapes and castles.
I walked in awe and wonder, in some places in fear, overwhelmed by the feeling of gratitude for what I was able and allowed to see. I thank you Carlsbad Caverns National Park for guarding and maintaining this miracle since 1923. Happy Birthday!
After I took the elevator (6 people inside, no waiting) rushing up like a vertical train, I was able to taste THE CAKE! I got a piece of a back wall of the building.
What I photographed with my trembling hands (no tripod) will give you only the faint idea of the size. I gave those formations my own names: The Cathedral Window, The Organ, The Bride, The Bride’s Vail, Maids of Honor, Cavers’ Angel, The Chandelier, and The Wedding Cake (weddings are happening in my family recently).
All these images (and more) are available for sale in different sizes starting from 4x6 on a greeting card. Copyright by Elżbieta Kaleta.
Finally, I am posting my own version of Carlsbad Caverns designed after my first visit there. It was a one piece paper cutout, done with scissors and mounted on a museum board. I also created an edition of serigraphs, numbered and signed, individually printed by hand on archival paper (still available).
I hope to see some of you in Las Cruces, NM during my art show (November 1-2, Young Park).
Wishing you a very Happy: Halloween
or: El Dia de los Muertos