The ghost town of Rhyolite & the odd outsider art installations that surround it.
Just outside of Rhyolite, Nevada, a spectacular ghost town off the road leading to Death Valley, California, a group of prominent Belgian artists, led by the late Albert Szukalski, created a self-described art situation consisting of seven outdoor sculptures that are colossal not only in their scale, but in their placement within the vast upper Mojave desert.
Founded in 1904 and dead by 1916, Rhyolite was one of several short lived boom-towns from the late Gold Rush era. People were drawn to the desert on the edge of Death Valley by the promise of gold found amongst quartz in local mines, and by 1906 the town had all the promising indicators of permanence with largest population in the area.
‘Tribute to Shorty Harris” by FRED BERVOETS Among the artists that have contributed work to the museum, probably the one who felt most out of place in the desert was Belgian artist Fred Bervoets, appointed a Knight of the Order of Leopold II by the King in 1988. His “portrait” sculpture of Shorty Harris (an early miner in Death Valley and its environs) and a penguin has elicited countless questions. The miner makes sense, but why the Antarctic bird? Word has it that Bervoets wanted to include in his sculpture an indication of how “alien” he felt in the Nevada desert. The penguin was the most out of place entity the artist could think of to represent his own feelings of displacement under the Mojave sun, a self-portrait then as a penguin in the desert.
The ghost town is located in the Bullfrog Hills, about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas, near the eastern edge of Death Valley. The town began in early 1905 as one of several mining camps that sprang up after a prospecting discovery in the surrounding hills.
‘Ghost Rider’ by CHARLES ALBERT SZUKALSKI 
The Porter Brothers Store had large plate glass windows so that you could see everything the store offered for sale. And they sold everything, except alcoholic beverages.
‘Rhyolite’s District of Shadows’ by Eames Demetrios  Principal of the Eames Office, filmmaker, author, design consultant, photographer, and creator of alternate realities, Eames Demetrios uses his varied talents in much the same way his iconic grandparents Charles and Ray Eames did, to communicate ideas through visual languages. Kymaerica is a multi-pronged and ongoing reinterpretation of the North American landscape and has been underway for several years. Manifestations include writings, video, performances, images, installation, limited edition prints, and more. It may be the largest installation of environmental fiction in the world.
Welcome to The Goldwell Open Air Museum.
‘Sit Here!’ by Sofie Siegmann  An accomplished painter and public artist, Siegmann left Europe and moved to the Bay Area. “Growing up in Switzerland meant living in a small country. I sought adventure and moved to spacious California. The sunlight, the lightheartedness of people driving everywhere in cars, and no rain for six months straight has changed how I think and feel. I see colors and apply them onto the canvas: luminous, translucent and thick as tar.” Siegmann was an artist-in-residence at the Lied Discovery Children’s Museumin Las Vegas in 2000.
‘Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada’ by DR. HUGO HEYRMAN  “Art helps the re-experiencing of forgotten things,” says Belgian artist Dr. Hugo, creator of “Lady Desert.” Using cinderblocks to represent in real 3-D sculpture the pixels he uses in his virtual 2-D computer work, Dr. Hugo has created a sculpture which at once refers back to classical Greek sculpture while maintaining a firm presence in the highly technological/pixilated world of the 21st century.
‘Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada’ becomes then an example of a modern sculpture that helps us re-experience and re-interpret a subject firmly rooted in the Western Fine Art tradition. The human figure, especially the female, is as fresh today in Dr. Hugo’s sculpture, with its computer generated beginning, as it was millennia ago in Greece.
Up close with the lady.
‘The Last Supper ‘ by CHARLES ALBERT SZUKALSKI 
‘Ghost Biker ‘ by CHARLES ALBERT SZUKALSKI 
‘Icara’ by DRE PEETERS  The Greek story of Icarus is the jumping off point for Dre Peeter’s wood sculpture “Icara,” Icarus as female. The hot and sunny environment of the American Southwest is a natural location for a sculpture that takes as its beginning the story of the headstrong youth who flew too close to the sun with wax wings, which subsequently melted, plunging him back to earth. The Greek myth fits well into the dry desert reality; the female form of “Icara,” arms/wings spread wide, eternally poised at the zenith of her flight, caught between the earth below and the desert sky above.
This was one of three bottle houses to be built in Rhyolite. Most of the bottles used were Adulphous Busch, (You know, it’s known as Budweiser today!) He collected the bottles from the 53 saloons that surrounded the town.
Mr. Kelly started it in September of 1905 and finished just 5 1/2 months later in February of 1906 when he was 76 years. The Bottle House was rehabilitated in 2005. The foundation was stabilized, bottles replaced, the board covering the attic section of the Bottle House was removed and new bottles placed where they belonged. The South Wall was stabilized so that it was no longer necessary to have a brace holding it up.
City of Ghosts
The first schoolhouse was a small wooden structure opening in September 1906 with a total of 28 students. By February 1907 they were turning students away from the door. The student population had grown to an astounding 250 children.
By the time they finished the new school, people were already starting to move out of town, there just wasn’t enough children to fill the school.
The vault of Overbury Bank.
Go to the bank, cross the street and get your shopping did.
Originally from Illinois, the Porter brothers opened their first store in Johannesburg, Ca. in 1902. Moving with the mining booms, they opened stores in Ballarat, Beatty, Pioneer and Rhyolite. From the Ballarat store, H. D. Porter loaded thirty tons of merchandise onto an 18-mule team freight wagon and came east across Death Valley to the Bullfrog District.
One of the signs that hung from the Porter Brothers Store was “All Things Good But Whiskey”. With all the saloons already established in Rhyolite, the Porter Brothers maintained a reputation of never selling liquor.
No matter where you stood in town you could see the Cook Bank Building.
Mr. Cook had 2 vaults installed for all that cash and gold moving around town.
The Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad Depot.
There were three railroad lines in Rhyolite, the next one was the Bullfrog Goldfield line that came in June of 1907. And the last one used the same tracks as the B & G and was called the Tonopah Tidewater. In fact, there were enough side tracks to have 100 cars just sitting there.
Rhyolite, NV & The Goldwell Open Air Museum should be at the top of your list if you happen to be driving through the area.