Saturday, December 29, 2007

Art Blooms in the Desert

In 1984, Belgian artist Charles Albert Szukalski found the Nevada ghost town of Rhyolite. A well known artist in Europe, he was attracted to the area's open desert landscape.

He decided to move to nearby Beatty and began fashioning a life-size plaster and fiberglass version of Leonardo Da Vinci's famous "Last Supper" painting. Using shrouds covered with the plaster mixture, he crafted a ghostly re-creation of the work.

The work was built atop a hill overlooking the town but within a short time vandals destroyed several of the figures. Szukalski decided to purchase eight acres on the edge of Rhyolite and relocated the figures to his property.

He restored the work and added other sculptures, such as “Ghost Rider,” a shrouded ghost figure holding a bicycle, as well as “Desert Flower,” a twisted mass of shiny chrome sprouting from the ground.

He invited other artists to join him to create an outdoor gallery on his property. Within a few years, Szukalski’s pieces had been joined by Andre (Dre) Peeters’ “Icara,” a giant wooden sculpture based on the Greek myth about Icarus, and Fred Devoets’ “Tribute to Shorty Harris,” a large metal outline of a prospector and a penguin.

The latter is said to have been included because the artist felt out of place in the desert—just as a penguin would.

In 1992, Dr. Hugo Heyrman added “Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada,” a massive pink, cinder block woman that looks like a huge Lego creature. Local artist David Spicer offered “Chained to the Earth,” a stone monolith with holes that represents, in his words, “the inseparability of man and woman, and the need for humankind to come back to earth.”

Following Szukalski’s death in 2000, his outdoor art garden and land was donated to a non-profit organization, the Goldwell Open Air Museum (, to maintain the pieces and develop art programs. The museum is located about 4 miles west of Beatty, on the road leading to Rhyolite.

It's all pretty surreal and interesting. Check it out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Rich,
Funny you should post this. I was just thumbing through "Weird Las Vegas and Nevada" and doing related Internet searches and came across the Last Supper installation. Surreal for sure! Thanks for all the great info.