Only in your State: Goldwell Open Air Museum
March – April 2019
Nevada has many treasures, but only some of them earn the title of truly unique.
The word unique gets thrown around a lot, and its true meaning is often muddled. Merriam-Webster defines the word as “being the only one” and “being without a like or equal.” In this section, we highlight Nevada treasures that are not only special, but are truly unique and can be found nowhere else in the world; treasures that can be found only in your state.
What do a ghostly figure holding a bicycle, a seemingly nude towering pink Lego woman, and a metal prospector with a penguin have in common?
They’re only found together in our state.
Nowhere else in the world would that sentence make sense other than at the Goldwell Open Air Museum, located near the Rhyolite ghost town. The museum hosts an abundance of bizarre artwork, displayed in an outdoor setting that is open to the public. According to the museum’s mission statement, it aims “To preserve, present, and encourage artistic exploration in and of the Amargosa Desert—an evocative landscape along the eastern edge of Death Valley National Park.”
The outdoor sculpture park began in 1984 with the creation of the museum’s first art piece: “The Last Supper,” by Belgian artist Albert Szukalski. The artwork depicts life-sized ghost figures—made of fabric, plaster, and fiberglass—atop a wooden frame and posed just as in the painting “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci. The original art piece was positioned high above Rhyolite, and a neon light bar illuminated the ghostly assembly at night. Vandals destroyed three of the original figures, but that didn’t discourage Suzukalski. In fact, it prompted him to purchase 7.8 acres at the base of Rhyolite and recruit a handful of Belgian artists to share the space and create more works of art.
Shortly after Szukalski’s death in 2000, the museum became a nonprofit, and now relies entirely on public support and grants, to offer a spectacular site for visitors from all over the world.
In addition to the ghostly figures of “The Last Supper,” other artworks include “Icara”—a wooden carving depicting a female version of Greek mythology subject Icarus by Dre Peeters; “Sit Here!”—a colorful couch by Sofie Siegmann; and “Desert Flower”—an assemblage of chrome car parts by Szukalski.
The museum also offers artist residencies and workspace programs. Visit goldwellmuseum.org for more information.