November 19, 2017
I unexpectedly came across the free Goldwell Museum in the desert between Death Valley National Park and the Rhyolite ghost town. There isn’t much change in scenery between California and Nevada when in the middle of nowhere Mojave desert so I was easily distracted by a “Free Museum” sign.
OK I’m a sucker. Not sure what caught my eye first, the hard to resist rusty prospector with a penguin, tall pink lego lady, or the ghostly Last Supper. Yet even with the craggy partial walls of buildings in the distance calling me to explore Rhyolite I just had to follow others into the gravel parking lot. It’s FREE!
Hard to believe someone would want to display larger than life art in this remote and desolate piece of desert. Yet that’s what happened beginning in 1984 when Belgian artist Albert Szukalski installed The Last Supper. The life-sized figures were created by wrapping live models in wet plaster-soaked fabric and then once dried coated the figures with fiberglass to protect from weathering.
The 1992 installation Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada by Dr. Hugh Heyrman looked like legos to me but turns out to be concrete blocks that are supposed to have a pixilated look to contrast the 21st century’s technology with classical Greek sculpture. I don’t see that.
The roadside rusty prospector and penguin, Tribute to Shorty Harris by Fred Bervoets, was installed in 1994. Seems Shorty was a legendary prospector in the area. The penguin presumably reflects the optimism of the miners’ endeavor. Yet even though the local mining endeavors where short lived they proved to be profitable to many.
Recognition to the growing collection occurred in 1996 with help by the Nevada Arts Council, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property. Albert Szukalksi died in 2000 and through an agreement with his business partner a non-profit was established to maintain and expand the collection and programs.
Feel free to get comfortable, Sit Here! and look around. Sofie Siegmann originally created this larger-than-life mosaic couch in 2000 for a museum project and it was relocated to the Goldwell Museum in 2007.
“The Goldwell Open Air Museum is private property and its artworks on display are protected by copyright. Non-commercial photography for personal use is permitted at any time. Commercial photography, film and video recording requires permission from the property owners.” So none of these photos are for sale.