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Hidden Traces of Visions Untold

Photographic expedition back to the San Rafael Wilderness, in Los Padres National Forest, to document the Rock Art of California's original inhabitants.

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In partnership with
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Hidden Traces of Visions Untold is a sponsored project of access4artists, a global talent discovery platform that works for all artists.

Hidden Traces of Visions Untold

Trekking into the mountainous San Rafael Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest north of Santa Barbara, photographer Robert Frear encountered Central California’s earliest art and “galleries.” Originally supported by the US Forest Service and an Artist in Residency grant from The James Irvine Foundation, Frear had the rare honor of standing in Pre-Conquest sites long revered by the Chumash peoples and gazing upon ceremonial paintings on rocks, boulders and caves as jet black condors circled overhead.

"Since the Zaca Lake fire in July 2007, I have resisted the urge to go back and document the environments and rock art from my time working on the artist in residency grant.  Not wanting to create a noticeable trail or unnecessary impact to these sensitive areas of the forest. Now that the land has had a chance to heal, I am ready to get back on the trail in Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara- CA.  I am hoping most, if not all the rock art has survived. I am also interested in the current condition of these sites as well. This area, which lies in the shadow of Hurricane Deck, deep within the San Rafael Wilderness Area, is an area rich in history that few are aware."

This $9,000 funding will provide this project with the following:

  • Transportation cost from to deep within Los Padres National Forest
  • Portable, battery powered lighting equipment to light these hidden treasures
  • Film and processing cost - Original project was done with 120 Velvia chrome film
  • Production and Printing cost for self-published book of this project
  • Material cost for exhibition prints
  • Framing and matting prints for exhibits.

Because of my professional photo lab background and my own Epson 9800 large format giclee printer, I will be able to keep the printing cost to just material cost. I plan on doing most of the additional post-production work in-house with my business, Fotostrations Studio (Creative Digital Solutions) so this will allow me to keep the project within this budget.

The Results:

To show the rich beauty of paintings that are fading away with time and exposure, I use a special photographic method to saturate the colors of the fragile imagery. These photographs conserve Central California’s first art, ensuring future generations have the opportunity to experience these rare cultural treasures from the Golden State.

Originally guided by archeologists from the US Forest Service and a representative of the Regional Tribal Relations Program to minimize impact on Native American sites, I evocatively photographed the mythic creatures and peoples painted from the rich trove of Chumash lore. The distinctiveness of these photographs lies in my own sensitivity to the place - the greater “gallery of nature” - for which the paintings were made. The results will be a compelling exhibition, Visions Untold: California’s First Artists.

The original project has been exhibited in museums and galleries within the Central California region, I hope to raise the profile of the project and show this exhibit and publication outside of this area. I feel this work is important to share because it shows us that creating art, for whatever reasons, human beings have always found a need to communicate larger ideas then with words alone can provide.  With the assault on funding for the arts, it is important to remind people that creating art is a part of human natural.  Not a frivolous waste of time and resources.  Art inspires the individual and allow us to see the bigger picture of who we are, and where we are going!

Other Ways You Can Help

Times are tough, not everyone has the ability to fund projects like this, (myself included!) however, I hope if this project interest you, help me get the word out and share this project with family and friends, and on your social media pages.

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