Rock Art!

Riding on obscure Tuscon trails, we ran across amazing art that was created out of rocks carefully arranged in the sand to form very cool figures. A huge rabbit, a heart, a wolf howling in a moonlight, a horse, a hummingbird …. we also ran across the original artist, Karen Garno, who was busy working on her latest masterpiece. Listen in on this podcast as Gravel Girl interviews Karen. What inspires Karen to create her amazing art, how does she find all the rocks, and how did she get started. Creating this art is both an artistic and physical endeavor for this 78 year old.

The art is located in the Voyager trail network. You can find this awesome trail network by heading to the entrance of the Voyager RV Park . You’ll find a gate right across from the entrance with plenty of room to park. There are 16 works of art as we publish this podcast, along with over 30 miles of trails for you to ride. We will be publishing a route call Rock Art, so check back on the Dirty Freehub site to find it. But the trails are well marked so don’t be afraid to head out to the area without a route loaded.


Linda: Hello everybody. On today’s show, we are gonna be interviewing Karen Garno, who is considered a rock artist. Very excited to have her because she has art that’s all along one of our bike routes.

And so welcome.

Karen: Oh, thank you. I’m, I’m honored to be here.

Linda: Yeah. Karen, you have such beautiful art. So tell us a little bit about your art. How would you describe it?

Karen: It is a lot of rocks carefully put, I like movement. I like color. I look for spec specific rocks that are not, they have to have a flat surface or I have to dig down and make them level. I, I like to have something that people feel when they look at it. They feel something

Linda: so, Karen, tell me about one of your favorite pieces that you’ve done. You’ve done lots of figurines out there that are really amazing. So why don’t you tell me about one of the pieces that you’ve done?

Karen: I think one of my favorites is the hummingbird,

that is on Jack Rabbit Trail. If, if anybody knows where that is

Linda: Yeah. Well, we’re gonna help ’em find it.

Karen: okay , I, I really wanted that to be the most realistic that I’ve done. Quite often the, it’s a little bit of the art is in the eyes of the beholder, but that one somehow became the most realistic for me.

He even has a ruby throat and little bit of iridescent green on his throat. So it was really fun putting him together.

Linda: Now you don’t ac you don’t actually paint the rocks. You go out and you find these rocks. So for you to find the colored rocks, that must be to quite the challenge. You must be out in the desert looking for rocks a lot.

Karen: I do, I watch for rattlesnakes and scorpions and then find the rocks that get me all excited. Then I carry ’em in a five gallon bucket, maybe about seven now because I had surgery and I’m not able to carry as much.

Linda: Wow,

so this whole area has a lot of rock art. So how many artists do you think are out there that are doing rock?

Karen: There’s,

two other people that are quite, quite serious and do very beautiful work. You mentioned the wolf and, um, there’s little, I think childish looking That could be children or they could be adults, but they’re expressions and it’s fun. . I think I was the first person to, to do this, and so I, I feel so inspired by their inspiration.

Linda: Hmm. So tell me, how long does it take you to actually do one of your masterpieces?

Karen: Well, I, first, I have to have this thing come into my mind, what, what I’d like to do, and then I have to scout the area. Big enough and in the right place and then find the rocks which need to be near the site. I have actually traveled maybe a half a mile or more. so having a lot of rocks is nice, but they have to be the right rocks and um, so it, it could take as long as two or three weeks or maybe the one I’m working on now, I’m probably into my third week at least, and it’s not done.

Linda: That’s amazing. Yeah. What’s the one that you’re working on now? Tell me a little bit about what inspired you to do this one and what is, what is it of.

Karen: I usually don’t tell anybody because that’s bad luck but

Linda: Oh, okay. no, no, no. We don’t wanna wish. Bad luck,

Karen: changes becomes something different. It, it’s kinda like I’m not always in charge.

Linda: Oh, that’s really great. Great. So what do you want people to take away from your art?

Karen: Feeling whether it’s like, I like this, I don’t like this. I actually had a lady burst into tears. I had one, I, I call it the, the rising phoenix, you know, and she burst into tears and she quietly cried. I didn’t ask her, I just asked her if she’s okay. She said, said, you don’t know what this means to me.

And I said, that’s wonderful. so I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

Linda: Yeah, me too. That’s amazing story. So do you draw the figurine out before you do it or you

just stand there and start, start putting rocks down?

Karen: no, I, I make sketches and sometimes I make another sketch that, because this sketch is not gonna work. The one I’m working on now has had three. So it’s, it’s really a process. If I wanna, I want a soul in those rocks and not just a pile of rocks, if you understand,

Linda: Mm. And so there’s all these mountain biking trails in this area. And how do you select the right place for that particular piece? How do you find a the area that you’re gonna decide to put your art?

Karen: it has to be not too far for me to ride on my bike cuz that’s how I get out there with my big, all my work stuff. So if it was like more than two miles or so, I’d rather be a little closer. It also means some privacy level, ground, not a whole lot of cholla to clear out. And rocks. Everything is on the rocks.

Linda: Everything is on the rocks. I like that. So, Karen, tell me a little bit about you. Have you been an artist your whole life or have you done other forms of art? Tell me a little bit more about your background.

Karen: I have dabbled in watercolor. When I was a little kid, I used to like to draw and we were foster kids, so we to have pens and paper and, you know, watercolors or those kinds of things was very, very limited. . So I drew in school, the teacher would give us paper. I went to a one one room schoolhouse, and she would give us, you know, paper and some things to draw or keep us busy, keep us quiet.

And so I just, it was actually just an expression that I liked

Linda: and, and it seems like you have a big connection to the desert. Where did you grow up?

Karen: I grew up in Michigan. We have a big farm and, but to me, somehow stones have meaning. I, I’ve always wanted to go along beaches and look for stones or if I’m out in the field, I look for arrowheads. I pick up Little Stones green ones a lot. I have one on my windowsill that, for me, it looks like a little tiny miniature rabbit.

But to anybody else, it looks like a dirty stone But yes, I do love rocks.

Linda: Yeah. I can see why people have nicknamed you the Rock lady. I think that’s a appropriate description of you.

So, so Karen, tell me about how did you learn to actually do rock art?

Karen: I had, I didn’t learn it, it just came to me. I, I took a, a long walk in the desert on the evening of Valentine’s and I have gotten so much from the desert that the peacefulness, and I never thought I would connect to the desert. , but I had taken a long walk and on the way home I just had this urge to give the desert a Valentine’s.

So I just made a very simple outline of a heart and that was it. So that got me started, and then I started, you know, doing outlines. I carried the rocks in my t-shirt and then, you know, finally went to a bucket and gradually became like a PhD rock finder,

Linda: So Karen, tell me a little bit about where do you see this going? Do you just wanna continue to, to make more art or is there different art that you’re looking to make? What’s the future? Hold for.

Karen: That’s a good question. I’m 78. I have had rotor cuff surgery this, this last fall. I see maybe this ending because of my strength or lack of ability. That’s probably the thing that would be in the way is it takes a lot of physical ability and I’m just so grateful that I can do it. So if I’m inspired and my body is allowing, I’m gonna keep doing it.

Linda: Okay, so final question. What’s, what’s your favorite color of rock? So I know you’re, you’re really, when I look at your art, I see a lot of color in your rocks. So I think that you must be out there scouring the desert to find really specific colors. So tell me a bit, a little bit color finding rock in the rocks.

Karen: I think green is my favorite color, so I’m always drawn to that. But there’s different shades of orange and gold. There’s that beautiful dark red. There’s some purple rocks. I don’t know that much about what rocks are made out of, but anything with color, you know, I like to incorporate it in little areas of the art to draw people’s eyes through the art.

And the. One piece I have in the very center is all colored stones. And so when it rains, it’s really pretty. I like it, you know, I like to get the stones wet and you can see the colors.

Oh, can I add something? I have had the rocks walked on by cows and they’re, that’s that, they’re that sturdy cuz you can see how footprints and they go across the art and then they come out on the other. And there were some cows visiting what I’m making now, which I mean, when it’s all finished, you’ll see why. That’s kind of funny.

Linda: Yeah. Which makes me laugh too because you, your, where your art is at is actually, you could say it’s in a cow pasture. It’s in an open grazing area. So it’s really kind of funny. So Karen, I would just like to really thank you for joining us today. It was such a pleasure to talk to you and I hope that everybody gets a chance to go out and see some of your art.

Thank you so much.

Karen: Thank you. a pleasure.

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