In Native American Rock Art, "Rock" Is More Than Just an Adjective

When looking at the sentence “In Native American rock art, “rock” is more than just an adjective,” I immediately begin to consider why the “rock” in “rock art” might have more meaning to Native Americans. When thinking about the “rock” as only an adjective, I would only see that the type of art is done on rock. The word “rock” allows me to picture the art more clearly in my mind but it is a very limited way of viewing this Native American art form.

Looking beyond “rock” as an adjective, we can find a deeper meaning. First we must ask ourselves “If rock is not just an adjective, what else could it be?”. I think that rock is something important to Native American art because it is the surface upon which they can tell stories and create and preserve images. It is very significant because without the rock, there can be no art. It is the place where the art is done. Rock can be a setting.

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Since the rock is essential to the art, I believe it is also essential to the Native Americans who produced the art. The rock is needed for them to tell their stories and express themselves and their culture. Rock is a necessity for cultural expression. Because of its function, I believe that the rock can have an artistic and spiritual value. The Native Americans who selected the specific part of rock on which to do art, made a decision about their composition and the presentation of the art. So the rock that they chose to do art on contains an artistic value.

The rock might also have spiritual value based on what is being depicted and its importance to the Native peoples. Many times, the art being done on the rocks serves more than a purely artistic purpose. It is to tell a story or explain an important idea. I believe that many times, the story or idea is connected to Native religion and spirituality. So creating an image related to Native spiritual beliefs may mean that rock also has some sort of spiritual value.

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So besides acting as a descriptor of the type of art being created, the word “rock” in “rock art” can also imply a certain artistic and spiritual meaning related to Native American beliefs. It can also be seen as essential to cultural and artistic expression in Native American culture as well as a setting or canvas for art.

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by Shirley H Lee