Shadows on the Mesa

Artists of the Painted Desert and Beyond

 By Gary Fillmore

Scheduled for publication in Spring 2012 by Schiffer Books.

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Shadows on the Mesa by Gary Fillmore


"From the door of their "jacal" home of posts and mud and adjacent one-room trading post, it was more than 150 roadless miles to the nearest railway stop in Gallup, New Mexico, and nearly as far to Flagstaff, Arizona. This enterprise was an outpost, far from any ties to industrial society.”


     Description of the Wetherill and Colville Trading Post

     Navajo Administrative History-“Founding Navajo National Monument”



From 1909 until the late 1930’s, the Wetherill and Colville Guest Ranch in Kayenta, Arizona was the primary stopover for writers, geologists, archeologists, adventurers and tourists visiting Monument Valley and the ruins of Tsegi Canyon. Prominent visitors included Theodore Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Zane Grey.

The list of artists who came to Kayenta during the early twentieth century includes some of the most well known names in the American Southwest:  Maynard Dixon, William Robinson Leigh, James Swinnerton, Carl Oscar Borg, and Gunnar Widforss are just a few of the many who painted full page entries in the lodge's guest book on at least one occasion.  The Kayenta Trading Post was a popular destination for many well known cartoon artists as well.  George Herriman (Krazy Kat), Frank King (Gasoline Alley), Rudolph Dirks (Katzenjammer Kids), and well known Disney animator Ward Kimball were all counted among the hardy individuals who ventured to the place that Maynard Dixon once described as “a damn long ways in any direction, from anywhere.”  

Shadows on the Mesa explores the similarities and differences in the lives, artistic styles, and beliefs of the men and women who considered northern Arizona their favorite region.

There are some traits the artists all shared. All were attracted to the state for the geographic or cultural subject matter. None were part of any major colonies or schools. In the case of most, this was by choice rather than lack of opportunity.  They chose to be defined solely by their work instead of their associations or adherence to the latest “isms” or trends in the art world. From a commercial standpoint, their reluctance to do so was more often than not a detriment. But the result in nearly every case was the cultivation of a signature style and a reputation for being fiercely independent that has served their legacies well.  To the end, they remained true to themselves and their visions. 






William Robinson Leigh Kayenta Guest Book Entry August 1922

William Robinson Leigh

Wetherill-Colville Guest Ranch registry entry

August 1922


Carl Oscar Borg Guest book entry June 7 1924

Carl Oscar Borg

Wetherill-Colville Guest Ranch registry entry

June 1924



James Swinnerton Louisa Wetherill Irwin Cobb

James Swinnerton, Louisa Wetherill and Irvin S. Cobb

Kayenta, Arizona

Circa 1934


Frank Van Sloun Agathla Needle Kayenta Guest Book Entry September 1925

Agathla Needle

Frank Van Sloun

Kayenta Guest Book Entry 1925






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