Katherine Wells' obsession with petroglyphs (images pecked on stone) began in the 1960s. Three decades later, after careers as a teacher, a businessperson, and an artist in Southern California. Wells and Lloyd Dennis, her partner, purchased almost two hundred acres near Espanola in northern New Mexico. The large boulders on the property contained many examples of rock art from previous Native inhabitants and the lure was overwhelming. Wells describes the beginning of her new life and her exploration of the petroglyphs on her new land. Meeting New Mexico archaeologists and local rock art aficionados, and locating previously published information about petroglyphs and the prehistoric inhabitants of the Espanola area, Wells learned to identify the time periods when the glyphs were made and to understand many of the motifs found among the more than six thousand petroglyphs on the site. In addition to discovering all she could about her surroundings, Wells worked with Dennis to design and construct three buildings on their property, each constructed of straw bales. Each of their experiences introduced these transplanted New Mexicans to the oft-cited definition of manana: 'not today'. However, the beauty of their adopted homeland made the trials and struggles they encountered pale in comparison.
Katherine Wells is a mixed-media artist and founder of the Vecinos del Rio Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project. After many years of work to protect the petroglyphs on Mesa Prieta, Wells recently gave the land described in Life on the Rocks to the Archaeological Conservancy. In 2005, she was awarded the Conservation and Preservation Award by the American Rock Art Research Association.