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A Closer Look -- Cave Drawings

Cave Drawings by Lex Thompson
Lex Thompson’s Cave Drawings contains little text aside from the brief 67-word artist statement and a signature page in the rear that notes the edition of 100 copies. The simple reproduction of a line drawing illustrates the cover and following the title page, the first image sets the mood for our journey through the inside of the Earth. We are in a rock-lined lobby where the elevator (arrow pointing up) has just deposited us 750 ft below the surface. Thompson shows one set of elevators, numbers 3 and 4, blocked by a row of chairs and tables as we assume 1 and 2 are opposite and completely functioning, hauling the many tourists back to the surface of the planet. Within the pages of the book, we encounter the many low-lit caves and caverns that wind along the well-groomed path of this National Park. Interspersed throughout the cave images are solid pitch-black pages and pictures with indications of the presence of man. We find a florescent and incandescently lit tourist area with souvenirs galore, hot dogs and various other edibles and indoor plumbing. Oddly Thompson’s images include man’s technology, but show no tourist or even a park employee. We are left with simply all the structural elements of the cave, whether naturally or artificially constructed. The third component collected here and the element for which the book is named is the cave drawings. White pages with beautiful pencil line drawings fill the center portion of the book and give an overall impression that we have been given access to the artist’s sketchbook.

 from Cave Drawings by Lex Thompson
 from Cave Drawings by Lex Thompson
I envision the lone artist in caverns, spending minutes adjusting to his night eyes so he can see the stalagmites, stalactites (hanging tight to the ceiling) and other formations. The monotone pencil illustrations show the detailed formations — cave popcorn, helictites, draperies, columns, soda straws – that have taken millions of years of constant water dripping in combination with limestone, calcite, aragonite, iron oxide and other minerals, to form. The drawings remove context and color from the scene while Thompson’s photographs show the grand rooms of Carlsbad Caverns reproduced in small scale on black pages. The interiors containing manmade structures mostly fill the pages and bleed to the edge. The three types of images – man made interiors, natural rooms and drawings – play with scale of these formations inside this modest publication.

 from Cave Drawings by Lex Thompson
Thompson’s simple zine functions as artist book, travelogue, and journal, pushing the bounds of a souvenir of a journey, documenting this natural formation that has taken over 60 million years to form the wonderland that it is today. -- Melanie McWhorter

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