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The elegant beauty of old traditions

Kim Henkel; Wutpatki Ruin; Van Dyke print from a pinhole photograph; 8" X 10"; 2007

Kim Henkel; Wutpatki Ruin; Van Dyke print from a pinhole photograph; 8" X 10"; 2007

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Artists have championed and documented public lands from the beginning of national parks. In a mutually supportive relationship, artistic interpretations have advocated land preservation issues while artists have enjoyed opportunities to work in some of the world's most amazing landscapes. Thomas Moran's evocative and astounding paintings influenced Congress to establish our first national park (Yellowstone, 1872). This tradition continues today with 42 Artist-in-Residence programs throughout the national park system.

Artists have benefited from creative opportunities in the Grand Canyon area for many years. When Hopi House opened in 1905, the upstairs residence housed Native American artisans. Annual art events, the Grand Canyon Music Festival and Grand Canyon Association's Celebration of Art, are popular with participating artists, local residents, and park visitors. On the North Rim, the National Park Service (NPS) supports an artist-in-residence program that for the past six years welcomed a minimum of four artists a season. The South Rim joins this tradition with a new year-round program, hosting 12 artists and collaborative groups. Joining the other NPS artist programs nationally, these residencies uphold a philosophy that public lands and the arts are not a societal luxury, but a necessity.

Bridging old methods and new ideas, the South Rim Artist-in-Residence program is pleased to welcome pinhole photographer and sculptor Kim Henkel as artist-in-residence for December.

Kim lived during the past three summer seasons in Keystone, South Dakota, working as the NPS Artist-in-Residence program coordinator and interpretative ranger at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Her studio work reflects her love of and fascination with the stark, harsh, and sometimes hostile landscapes of the Great Plains and desert Southwest.

Kim enjoys the Four Corners area. She did her undergraduate studies at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and completed her graduate work at Arizona State University in Tempe, graduating with honors with a Masters of Fine Art degree in sculpture in 2005; she's taught sculpture at both Western New Mexico University and Northern Arizona University. Kim also hold a K-12 arts education degree.

Kim's artwork focuses on what she calls the "moment of discovery."

Using the low-tech pinhole photography method, she seeks to capture the specific and unique moment when the photo is taken, while also capturing the narrative history of the landscape or archeological site she is shooting. Kim creates beautiful photographs that promote preservation and conservation of our historic treasures. Her beautiful, sometimes strange and surreal, and always evocative images present the subject matter in a very personal and intimate way, as if the viewer is peeking through time at an undiscovered world. Her work encourages everyone to pay closer attention and to protect our vulnerable landscapes and irreplaceable cultural artifacts.

Kim's tools are as primitive as her techniques. She uses found and recycled materials to hand build her cameras, and uses traditional darkroom techniques to produce her photographs. The unpredictable image allows for artistic surprises. In this world of completely controllable digital photography and digital manipulation, Kim has tenaciously stuck to the old methods. Her haunting and interestingly composed photographs serve as a window to both the past and future.

While in-residence, Kim will work with Grand Canyon School's technology teacher Brad Houston, and his sixth-grade students. In their four-day workshop, they will experiment with home-made pinhole cameras and learn some darkroom techniques. Kim will also be presenting an evening program on Dec. 10, at 7:30 p.m. at the Shrine of the Ages. Kim's talk will focus on her Southwest pinhole photography portfolio project, as well as the joys and frustrations of working in this primitive method. The NPS evening programs entertain all-ages.

For more information about the North and South Rim's Artist-in-Residence program, please call the South Rim coordinator Rene Westbrook at (928) 638-6483 and visit our web site

(Editor's note: Rene Westbrook is the South Rim Artist-in-Residence program coordinator.)

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