Monday, May 5, 2008

death valley dazed

Leaving Las Vegas wasn't cinematic, but it was time consuming.  They just keep building strip malls and casinos in gas stations further and further away from town.  We stopped at one, re-iced, slathered on sunscreen and talked about "Death Valley Days" and Borateem in preparation for searching out stuff in the desert.

Stuff like Cathedral Canyon, a sculpture park built into a small natural canyon near the California-Nevada line.  Apparently a Vegas attorney named Roland Wiley spent years creating it as a tribute to his daughter, but then he passed away too, and the vandals have had their way with it.  The statue of Christ of the Andes was headless, the bridge was gone, and the small grottos in the canyon walls were crumbling away too.  

We said a small thank you once again to the preservationists out there who save sites like these, and headed toward Beatty to meet one.  Suzanne Hackett-Morgan worked with Seymour Rosen in California many years back, and is now helping the Goldwell Open Air Museum stay viable in its Death Valley domain.  Technically, the artists whose work is on display here were trained.  But they came from Belgium, and saw in this inhospitable terrain a great place to drink lots of beer and make whatever they wanted.  There's a large metal miner (with a penguin), a spooky Last Supper, a giant pink pixilated woman, and as the picture above shows, a new addition that fits right in.  Recently, Suzanne managed to corral a piece from the Las Vegas Children's Museum called "Sit Here", revamped and re-imagined it and voila, another piece for the park.

Why Goldwell, when it's actually in Rhyolite?  Apparently, Albert, the Belgian who started it all back in the 80s, said "gold was what people came here for, and Wellington was the name of the mine, so, Goldwell!"  And speaking of Rhyolite, except for the old train depot, it's nothing but ruins.  The depot and Tom Kelly's Bottle House, that is.  Built in 1908 utilizing the resource that thousands of miners who lived there at the time contributed--glass bottles.  It's been shored up with a new roof in the last few years, which is great.  However, it's behind barbed wire, and no one had a key.  Not so great.

Don did take a small spill on the rocks at Rhyolite, but his skinned knee isn't going to bench him.  Best of all, we left the park with great swag --T-Shirts, cards, books, and a real appreciation for the passion that someone like Suzanne can bring to places like these.  Did I mention she likes the Jayhawks too?

Music In the Van--John Hiatt "Best Of", Minus Five "Down With Wilco", Joni Mitchell "Shine"

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