Ghost towns are curious places because they feel a bit off. Humans don’t like to fail, and placing oneself inside a city that didn’t quite make it translates as somewhat jarring to the human psyche. Abandoned cities tend to make one feel a bit fritzy inside, and there is something about that strange feeling that I oddly relish. If someone wants to instantly feel that particular fritzy feeling, it is overwhelmingly omnipresent in the windswept plains of Rhyolite, Nevada. There, one can stand before an eclectic collection of sculptures and wonder who placed them there and why.
The Goldwell Open Air Museum Sculpture Park stands just outside the abandoned city of Rhyolite. The ruins of a three-story bank loom in the distance, and visitors can barely catch a glimpse of it as they walk around a motley collection of lonely statues.
The most poignant group of sculptures was created by an artist named Albert Szukalski. He titled his creation The Last Supper, yet his thirteen plaster cast ghosts will forever wait for a meal to be served on a table that isn’t there. It hardly matters that there is no table, as there is nothing inside those ghosts either. The whole sculpture is about the space that exists outside of us and how we all quietly internalize a feeling of emptiness. Those ghosts show us what we look like when we allow our true selves to be exposed. Stripped of our skin, we are no different than those hollow plaster cast spirits. The wisdom of the ghosts instructs that there is nothing to hide from when we allow ourselves to be exposed.
The artist anticipated that the sculptures would survive maybe two years in the harsh desert environment, but 35 plus years later, the pieces are still there. Those sculptures stand quietly in the desert without any fanfare, without any roof, without any walls. They are simply just there. It is difficult to say whether they look lonely or not.
My first impression was that they did look lonely out there in the middle of pure nothingness, but gradually the impression grew on me that the sculptures wouldn’t look right anywhere else that wasn’t desolate. Our natural state of being is by ourselves, and we often mistakenly surround ourselves with too many people, too many buildings, and too many thoughts. Those statues have it correct to remove themselves from the motley of everything. They are precisely where they need to be, and it is our human duty to come to them. I had to resist the feeling of wanting to get up on that platform and live out the rest of my life right there next to them since they seemed to be the only ones who knew how to live.
This was an excerpt from the second installment of my “Memory Road Trip” travel series. The upcoming book will be called “Time Traveled” and I hope to release it by the end of the year. Until then, my first book is available now!