BLOG06: Oct. 30., 2021
ART, TRASH, AND GHOSTS
On Saturday my partner and I drove two hours west from Las Vegas to the remote mining town of Beatty, Nevada and the adjacent ghost town of Rhyolite, where the Goldwell Open Air Museum was having their Bullfrog Biennial. One of the first works I visited was “Arterial” by Tiffany Lin and Saskia Krafft. The bright but dreamy red structure has handmade harp instruments on the top that respond to the powerful winds that sweep across the valley.
This region of Nevada has been heavily mined since the early 1900s. In the landscape there are layers of desolation and trash dating all the way back to that time. For “This is Fine,” the artist Geovany Uranda located an obliterated mobile home at the base of a mountain and placed large painted plywood forms depicting fire around these mysterious ruins.
As we were exploring the area that afternoon, we discovered a site near the town dump where historic trash has reached geologic proportions. A river of old tin cans, metal containers, and various broken glass and ceramic wares collect naturally in crevasses and washes in the desert terrain, forming an impressive stream of rusted metal.
Since this trash is historic, it may be protected as an archaeological site although I believe it is mostly left alone. I didn’t want to collect any materials in order to preserve the archaeological integrity of this phenomenon. Miner trash sites like this one are common in Nevada. Attitudes surrounding extraction and Manifest Destiny have been destructive and obtuse, destroying not just landscapes but Indigenous people’s lives and homes, along with many desert plant and animal species that have evolved in this place. These “trash rivers” serve as a reminder of the thoughtless mess that colonizing behaviors have left behind, with no plan to respect the land and its people, or leave it as it was found.
End of the day, we were back at the Goldwell at a site-specific installation by Antwane Lee called “Ancestral Totem.” The artist collaborated with an astronomer to align the structure to cradle the sunset on this day. Folks paid tribute to the ancestors with cornmeal and smoke around a stone circle that was aligned with the four cardinal directions. I thought about my queer ancestors is this land, who knew it was more than a place to be torn up and sold, and I imagine they would be happy to see so many caring folks coming together to honor this region once so violent towards them. As the sun dropped it took with it a celebratory display of color over the westward mountains.