Desert Dreaming
The Last Supper, Goldwell Open Air Museum

The Last Supper, Goldwell Open Air Museum

It’s been way too long since I’ve seen the desert, which I maintain runs in my blood like spaghetti sauce and caffeine.  My mother is from Nevada and we traveled by car from Peoria to Las Vegas and then on to Huntington Beach, California numerous times as I was growing up.  My most vivid memory of traveling through Death Valley was that we always filled our thermoses with cold water just in case we got stranded in the desert.  The name of the place was a grim reminder that some unfortunate folks never made it out, but you couldn’t beat the scenery.

We never went to Rhyolite, probably because it was a real ghost town and not a packaged experience like Virginia City.  But my peripatetic friend and ace photographer Francisco Arcaute recently visited Rhyolite and the Goldwell Open Air Museum, and he was kind enough to share a few images with yours truly (As always, click on an image to see a larger version).  The Goldwell Museum did not exist when I was growing up, as it was established in 1984 when The Last Supper (shown above) was installed by Belgian artist Albert Szukalski.  My parents probably would not have gone anyway, because it was art.  The only reason I ever got to see the Cadillac Ranch was because it was visible from Route 66.

Like all great outdoor art, the pieces in the Goldwell Open Air Museum were created in the context of a landscape that must be experienced to be truly appreciated.  I would like to see the place for myself someday, but for now Mr. Arcaute’s images are serving to whet my appetite.

Fred Bervoets, Tribute to Shorty Harris

Fred Bervoets, Tribute to Shorty Harris

Open 24/7, the Goldwell Open Air Museum is located near Rhyolite.  The Museum Web site has a ton of information and images, including images from the latest exhibits at Red Barn Art Center an artist residency and workspace in Goldwell.  As I write this they are currently showing Indra’s Jewels by James Stanford, an exhibit of photomontage art executed with Adobe Photoshop that looks quite intriguing.  As an artist, I can hardly think of a more exciting and inspiring place to work than Goldwell, and I look forward to seeing what else emerges from this space.

If you plan to visit Rhyolite, the main Web site recommends that you print out their info before you go.  Apparently there is none on hand at the ghost town, further reaffirming that this is not a packaged experience on the order of Virginia City.  Among the sights on view in Rhyolite is the bottle house and attached garden, built by saloon owner Tom Kelly in 1906.

Rhyolite Bottle House

Rhyolite Bottle House

At about 80 miles from Las Vegas, Rhyolite is perhaps a bit of a haul for most day-trippers.  Those visiting LV for the first time might not want to venture quite this far, but the intrepid may find it to be a worthy side trip that combines impressive scenery, massive outdoor art, and a genuine Nevada ghost town. Consider this a teaser for the forthcoming second installment of my guide to Las Vegas for Solo Travelers, published on Google Knol.  I look forward to including more of Mr. Arcaute’s work in that section (eta unknown), and it is rumored he has more projects up his sleeve, of which I shall keep you appraised.

All images in this post by Francisco Arcaute, all rights reserved.

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