God's Candy, "Seven Magic Mountains"
Imagine driving ten minutes outside of Vegas en route to LA and you see a sweet mirage of tall, stacked candy in the desolate desert; confections so high they almost touch the sky in neon colors so bright they radiate with the sun. Your kids scream with delight. These nonchalantly carved, colorful cakes stacked one-by-one appear as if their cake-batter was dyed but the smooth fondant was never applied; they will fool your senses and toy with your drive through the Mojave, let’s call it perception vs reality although…
my children were delighted at the prospect of a Willy Wonka pop-up shop in the desert!
But looks may be deceiving and ingredients aren’t all they seem. The cakes are actually boulders and the dye is dayglow paint in all colors of the spectrum. Artist Ugo Rondinone, a world-renowned art star who made a splash in the NYC cityscape with Human Nature in 2013, created this Land Art installation aptly titled Seven Magic Mountains; he talks of the holistic properties in the colors and hopes viewers will notice the beauty of the desert juxtaposed by his totems. This piece of Land Art took five years to complete at the cost of $3.5million (not to worry, this was by private donation not tax dollars). On average the boulders weigh 40,000lbs each, the totems are stacked 3-6 boulders high and stand between 30-35 feet tall. Can you imagine the height?! I stand almost 6' tall, that's me x5 almost x6!
Once we exited the vehicle our kids ran straight towards the mountains; I mean, they booked it. My husband took five full minutes to enter as he was simply stunned, standing at the point of entrance almost knocked out by both the engineering anomaly and the sheer audacity to bring such an out-of-box marvel to Jean’s Dry Lake bed. Our little four-year old had a gust of independence that I’ve never seen before, so strong in fact, he led us with all his might & his blankie & his gold Supras on a solo-mission to see these totems. It was like the seas of people parted for him.
Something mystical and magical about Seven Magic Mountains. The land felt sacred. The boulders were bright. They’re showing wear&tear but what wouldn’t after over a year al fresco in the desert? They beckon to be gazed upon but you also look at the desertscape more intently with eyes of appreciation, even when it’s 100degrees at 9am. In 2005, I used to walk under Christo & Jean Claude’s The Gates daily when I lived in NYC, I even remember watching&talking to the workers who erected those orange flags in Central Park, the installation spanned for miles & miles, but that did not hold a candle to these seven totems. I’m telling you, there’s nothing like this I’ve ever experienced.
It’s open sunrise to sundown and busy with many visiting art patrons although that doesn’t matter, everyone takes their turn for photos & space; people are on the move within the rocks. You're graciously sharing this space together.
The totems move as you move. NO, they’re not kinetic although the relation unto themselves shifts & bobs as you move around them. Stand on the east side looking west, they’re perfectly inline with ample space between each Mountain yet walk around them to alter your perspective and watch as the totems overlap appearing as if they’re
a single bucket of chopped-up rainbows.
I noticed all visitors liked to be in the exhibition. As in physically, they placed their bodies right smack-dab in the middle of the totems or cuddled up against a selfie-worthy boulder. Just pick your color. Not many were capturing the full height of one glowing shish-kabob…let alone seven. I suggest you move around and walk in & out, out & in the installation. It’s larger than you think. But it’s a bit of a mind bender because you don’t want to walk away from them or outside their area. Think about that, you don’t want to step outside their holistically inclined, restorative space.
Is this a response to our Las Vegas lights, to our city of sin, skin & neon? A push/pull of man-made artifice and Mother Nature's bounty? Are the Seven Magic Mountains giving fare-warning to all those who enter, if you proceed you will be hit by bright lights, an erroneous city and eye-popping facades? Is this tom foolery? Is this was Las Vegas is all about? Making something out of nothing and beckoning international clientele to the mirage come reality?
“I don’t see what the fuss is all about, they’re just rocks!” The first thing I heard from a parting millennial. As we drove away, my husband said, “they’re majestic”. I agreed. Miley Cyrus, why on earth hasn’t she come out here? This is like a smoked-up acid trip with the calming assuredness of the desert skyline. However you perceive this installation, just make sure you see it for yourself.
I didn’t want to leave the Seven Magic Mountains. In our house we call fruit “God’s Candy” and, I swear, I feel like this installation is on par with that description. They awaken yet relax you. They feed your soul yet leave you hungry for more. They don't want to let you go yet they wave goodbye as you drive away.
"They awaken yet relax you.
They feed your soul yet leave you hungry for more.
They don’t want to let you go
yet they wave goodbye as you drive away."
The exhibition will be open until May 11, 2018 and it will be a very sad day when the totems are dismantled but, like most Land Art that’s preceded The Seven Mountains, it’s destined to be destroyed by its maker before Mother Nature takes her toll. To those of you who made this legendary display of public art phenomena possible (Art Production Fund, New York [headed up by Casey Fremont, think of her as a real-life, uber version of Claire Danes' character in The Family Stone, a VEGASMAMAS™ favorite], Nevada Museum of Art, Reno [Reno's gift to us, this is on our to-do list for weekend jaunts], MGM Resorts Art & Culture and all those gorgeous art patrons willing to put their money where their passion is and to the artist behind it all, Ugo Rondinone, I say BRAVO, you have outdone yourselves and we are thrilled to bask in this dayglow glory.
If you’re wondering whether you should or shouldn’t go, the answer is yes you should.
- once you're there, don't miss the informative posted signs. there's even a cyber tour guide: Guide-by-Cell 702.381.5182
- you’re a desert dweller, you know what to bring and how to dress in this monstrous heat
- water, sunscreen, hats, no flip-flops (I heard there's snakes)
- watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries (fabulous for after your tour, pack them on ice!)
- it’s behind a barbed-wire fence, the exhibition is open sunrise to sundown (so go early)
- off Interstate 15, Jean is close just incase you need a restroom/refreshment
- our GPS brought us a few miles past to Jean, we exited then made a U-turn back up a side road to Seven Magic Mountains
- use your pano(ramic) lense!
- walk around the totems but also outside of the totem area
- make sure to get a full totem shot!
- it won't be around forever so GO! this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. a moment in time. whether you're a fine art humbug or a lover of all things fine, go...be a part of it!
Photo goals for when we go again:
- dress in a ball gown.
- family dresses in all white
- buy one of those obnoxious selfie sticks, I'm so tired of our 3/4 family photos (as 1/4 is taking the photo)
- bring my mother
- do yoga poses in front of the mountains
- have the kids JUMP! in the photo
- PeeWee Herman pinch the mountains
- what else? comments below encouraged...
#VEGASMAMAS (we'd love to see what you do, too!!)
all words & photos by Desiree Dawn Solis founder of VEGASMAMAS™ (except a few fabulous photos by my husband, Patricio Solis)