Saturday, May 5, 2018


Dragon trail, S. of Rangley,
Rio Blanco county, CO.,
Photograph Peter Faris,
Sept. 1990.

Back in 1990, south of Rangeley, Colorado, I ran into one of the most amazing and memorable petroglyphs I had (and still have) ever seen. A beautiful example of sheepherder art, it was the nude figure of a woman, wearing only a drape and high heels, and signed "Paco Chacon, Fruita, Colo, Jan 9 1975."

Sketch of petroglyph, 
Dragon trail, S. of Rangley,
Rio Blanco county, CO.,

The thing about it was that it could in no way be labeled a pornoglyph; although nude, she was demure and innocent, self-confident and comfortable in her beauty. When I met her she was only fifteen years old based on the dated signature. As a life-long fan of folk art this petroglyph instantly impressed itself in my memories as one of my very favorites.

Dragon trail, S. of Rangley,
Rio Blanco county, CO.
Photograph Cheryl Ames,
Sept. 2008.

I was later given this 2008 photograph by Cheryl Ames showing the demise of this remarkable beauty. Some philistine with a high-powered rifle, for whatever demented reasons, had decided to practice his target practice on her image.

By now I am sure you have noticed that this particular column is not an impartial scientific report on rock art. I am, in fact, ranting about an all-too-common occurrence in rock art, vandalism, and lamenting the destruction of a particularly beautiful example of sheepherder art. There is, however, one bright element in this dark and depressing story. I have recently read a wonderful book by Steven G. Baker (2016) about this artist, Paco Chacon. Baker's "My Name is Pacomio" opens up the life of this artist whom Baker had befriended, and introduces us to the remarkable body of work, both on rock and on Aspen bark, that is Paco Chacon's legacy to the world. So many more examples of the work of this remarkable self-taught artist than I could ever hope to find are illustrated in Baker's 130 pages.

Paco Chacon petroglyph,
"Desert Bighorn, and Little 
Miss Tuffet." #12, p. 93,
Photograph Steven G. Baker.

 "Paco's Pony", #13, p. 93, 
from Shavetail Basin,
near Rangely, CO.
Photograph Steven G. Baker

According to Baker, Pacomio Chacon was born in New Mexico's Jemez mountains on La Mesa del Polio in the vicinity of the community of Coyote. As with so many others in this rural, pastoral society, Chacon grew up working around the family's small farm and herding flocks of sheep. I have no intention of recounting the life history of Paco Chacon, for that I will refer you to the book listed below which Steven G. Baker wrote about the life and work of his friend. I will say that Chacon sounds like an admirable man who showed a remarkable talent for portraying the human figure although he had no formal art training. That you will see for yourself in the few other examples of Chacon's body of work that I am including with Baker's permission out of the roughly one hundred that Baker has documented (and refers to other known examples that he could not photograph).

Aspen bark inscription, 1964-65,
photograph by Richard Moyer,
Meeker, Colorado.

Paco's "Marilyn M., Chimera of
the Aspens", #19, p. 71.
Photograph Steven G. Baker.

"Kneeling Lady", #18, p. 71.
Photograph Steven G. Baker

As grateful as I am to Paco Chacon for the beautiful examples of his work which decorate some of the Colorado/Utah  wilderness where sheep have long grazed, I am as grateful to Steve Baker for bringing me the full story of the gentle and talented man who produced it. Thank you both.


Baker, Steven G.
2016 My Name Is Pacomio: The Life and Works of Colorado's Sheepherder and Master Artist of Nature's Canvases, Western Reflections Publishing Co., Lake City, CO.

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