I saw the mock up of this at the Aria casino, Las Vegas, about a year ago. And today, the real thing!
Renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s colorful large-scale, public artwork Seven Magic Mountains is a two-year exhibition located in the desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring seven thirty to thirty-five-foot high dayglow totems comprised of painted, locally-sourced boulders.
Visible across the desert landscape along Interstate 15, Seven Magic Mountains offers a creative critique of the simulacra of destinations like Las Vegas. According to Rondinone, the location is physically and symbolically mid-way between the natural and the artificial: the natural is expressed by the mountain ranges, desert, and Jean Dry Lake backdrop, and the artificial is expressed by the highway and the constant flow of traffic between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
We passed this going about 70 miles per hour–so the impression was fleeting…However, it reminded me of “No Face” from the anime “Spirited Away.”
These images from Atlas Obscura:
And this from the movie:
Haunting in any case.
Possible explanations from “Atlas Obscura”
No one seems to know the origin of the spirit totem nor exactly how long it’s been present on “Deadman Flats” and the edge of Navajo lands. Locals will tell you the totem has been around “a very long time” or “for as long as I remember.”
Wupatki National Monument, a place of ancient pueblos, is just east of the totem, as is the Navajo sacred place, Chezzhin Deez’d, Black Point or Black-Rock Point, an ancient basalt lava flow where the founders of the Western Water Clans journeyed eastward from the point of their creation on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, crossed the Little Colorado on their way from the San Francisco Peaks.
Travelers leave gifts and tokens in the totems but the reasons are unknown. Possibly it is for safe travels, maybe it is in respect to the ancients who travelled past years ago.
Know Before You Go
Located on the East side of US Hwy 89, just south of where the highway merges from north/south bound roads to a single highway, ~ 1/2 mile south of the Wupatki National Monument road. One can pull well off the highway onto a dirt pullout.
A recent feature in the New Mexican’s “Pasatiempo” asked 35 writers what classic New Mexican book had influenced them.
Joan and I have never discussed this, so the similarity was surprising–or maybe not, considering our long and fruitful literary partnerships.
“I read The House at Otowi Bridge (1960) by Peggy Pond Church when I first came to New Mexico. My profound takeaway was the idea or the insight that New Mexico is made up of many worlds that are in collision and connection with each other. The book is about Los Alamos, it’s about the bomb, it’s about a person who is sort of an outsider who brings other people together; it’s about the Colorado Plateau and the pueblos. All of that was completely fascinating to me. But it wasn’t just the subject matter, it was that sense of layers of the unseen and how things are connected to each other.”
Miriam Sagan’s most recent book is Black Rainbow (2015). She is the director of the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College and co-founder of Tres Chicas Press. She is currently finishing a nonfiction manuscript called 100 Cups of Coffee.
“When we first came to New Mexico 45 years ago, we lived in Nambé and hiked along the river, so I got The House at Otowi Bridge by Peggy Pond Church (1960), in which she talks about Edith Warner. I feel like it reflected something about being an outsider coming to this place. I love the idea that Warner was actually a bridge between the San Ildefonso people and the Los Alamos National Lab people. I feel like a lot of my life has been bridging cultures the best I can, by feeding people chocolate cake, as Edith Warner did.”
Joan Logghe is the former Santa Fe poet laureate and co-founder of Tres Chicas Press. Her books include Twenty Years in Bed With the Same Man (1995) and The Singing Bowl (2011)
We’re on a road trip! And have left the house sitters to deal with the skunks. (So far–three have been trapped and released far far away).
Anyway, this morning’s events included a visit to the museum in Flagstaff and an interesting collaborative show by glass blower George Averbeck & Serena Supplee. Her work is representational:
His is a more abstract response to the Colorado Plateau.
This got me thinking…about Navajo rugs. The Burntwater style has apparently been around for decades, but in the past two days I’ve been noticing it everywhere–colorful, detailed, sadly unaffordable…
Navajo weaving also feels like an abstract response to the arid beauty of the Plateau.
Thanks to Stone Bridge for publishing my poem of the Japanese countryside.
from the desk window
blue roof tiles
those dragon scales
like the sea
and a corrugated
green tin roof
then the lettuce beds
of the old lady’s house
when she opens the screens
I can watch her
or eat a little snack,
she has quality
she’s the one
who is left