In Nevada/ Places to see

The Real “Last Supper” Was in a Ghost Town Called Rhyolite

July 27, 2016
The Last Supper (Albert Szukalski, 1984) (Rhyolite, NV)

The ghost town that is Rhyolite is one of the reasons why I love Death Valley.  So weird.  Such intrigue!

…Because ghostly figures randomly placed in the middle of nowhere are nothing to be trifled with.

PLACE:

Rhyolite, Nevada

LOCATION:

Outskirts of Death Valley National Park, Highway 374

REASONS TO GO:

Well-preserved ghost town, crazy art installations that make little sense for the area (but a lot of sense in the grander scheme of things), spooky and odd

MAJOR SITES:

Goldwell Open Air Museum, The Last Supper (art installation), Cook Bank

HOW YOU CAN VISIT:

California-Nevada road trip, Death Valley National Park side trip (if you have a higher clearance vehicle, this is best done by seeing Titus Canyon on your way back)

WEBSITES TO REFERENCE:

•  Goldwell Museum

•  NPS

Pulling into Rhyolite was expectedly weird.  Thankfully, we arrived just as an obscenely large tour group was finishing up.  Despite its presumed desolation, it’s a favorite stop for folks spending time at Death Valley or just passing through.

Rhyolite
The Last Supper (Albert Szukalski, 1984) (Rhyolite, NV)
The Last Supper (Albert Szukalski, 1984)

…Or 13 Nazgûl all dressed in white?  The Last Supper sculpture was my main reason for wanting to visit Rhyolite, and it did not disappoint.  It’s weird, makes little sense and then starts making sense after you notice the visual contrast with the surrounding environment.  It is, by far, Albert Szukalski’s masterpiece.

Mr. Szukalski visited Beatty, a nearby town on his visit to Northern California.  Coming from a prestigious arts academy in Belgium, he discovered artistic freedom in the harsh, blank-slated environment.  He traveled to nearby Beatty several times and befriended the locals, who eventually posed for him when he created the statue.  He eventually drew more artists who created a handful of other pieces you can see around Rhyolite. Together, the art installations and ghost town history make Rhyolite a unique place to see on any road trip.

Needless to say, The Last Supper is Rhyolite’s claim to fame.

Rhyolite is considered the entry point into Death Valley National Park from the east.  The fact that The Last Supper is the unofficial mascot of said entry point makes sense.  The death connotation is pretty evident when you break it down.  Yay, death!

As we were pass through, the short lifespan of Rhyolite was evident.  The small town was alive and kicking for less than 15 years.  It boomed during the gold rush in the surrounding area, but as that died out, so did the town.  The Cook Bank building is the main attraction among the crumbling remnants, but there’s also a bottle house (used in a lot of films) which I missed.

Icara (Dre Peters, 1992) and - in background - Tribute to Shorty Harris (Fred Bervoets, 1994) - Rhyolite, NV
Icara (Dre Peters, 1992) and - in background - Tribute to Shorty Harris (Fred Bervoets, 1994)
Ghost Rider (Albert Szukalski, 1984) (Rhyolite, NV)
Ghost Rider (Albert Szukalski, 1984)
Goldwell Open Air Museum (Visitor Center) (Rhyolite, NV)
Goldwell Open Air Museum (Visitor Center)
More art, not sure by whom (Rhyolite, NV)
More art, not sure by whom
Sit here! (Sofie Siegmann, 2000) (Rhyolite, NV)
Sit here! (Sofie Siegmann, 2000)
Cook Bank (front) (Rhyolite, NV)
Cook Bank (front)
Cook Bank (back) (Rhyolite, NV)
Cook Bank (back)
Cook Bank (front front) (Rhyolite, NV)
Cook Bank (front front)
Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada (Dr. Hugo Heyrman, 1992) (Rhyolite, NV) (Photo by Harley Williams)
Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada (Dr. Hugo Heyrman, 1992) (Photo by Harley Williams)

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