Wandering through Time and Place

“Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing.” ~Helen Keller

We had landed in Vegas early, rented a car and were driving to Death Valley. With less than an hour to go  I thought maybe I was experiencing a mirage in the desert but as I got closer I realized that both my wife and I couldn’t be experiencing the same mirage. Could we?

When Belgian artist Albert Szukalski launched what would become the Goldwell Open Air Museum in 1984, he chose nothing less than a life-size reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" with hollow, ghostly figures in place of Jesus and his apostles. The location of “The Last Supper,” so close to Death Valley, holds its own symbolism.  It echoes timeless themes of loss, death and redemption.  Szukalski subsequently created two other pieces here, “Ghost Rider” in 1984 and “Desert Flower” in 1989.

 Other prominent Belgian artists later added their own creations, including a rusted-steel silhouette of a prospector and a penguin and a two-story nude woman rendered in cinder blocks so she resembles a voluptuous set of giant Lego bricks.

Szukalski, who died in 2000, hoped people would stumble across the sculptures by accident and experience them without completely understanding what they were. Though accidental visits still occur, the sculptures has developed an international following -- and become a modest destination in itself -- thanks to the Internet.

If you want to visit this area be sure to check out some of the other sights we “discovered” while driving in the area including Rhyolite, the most famous ghost town in the West. There you’ll see the Bottle House, built from 50,000 beer and liquor bottles by an enterprising (and very thirsty) miner. Also the ruins of the three-story bank and what’s left of the old jail and schoolhouse. At its height, Rhyolite was home to a stock exchange, a red light district, hotels, stores, a hospital and an ice cream parlor. The town was abruptly abandoned in 1919, but you’ve still got the chance to glimpse the ghosts of its lively, wild past.


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