The Mojave Desert is not a place where you expect to see a penguin. But those who travel on Highway 374 will find one west of Beatty, Nev., loitering by a 24-foottall rusted-steel prospector. The pair of statues, dubbed Tribute to Shorty Harris, is part of the Goldwell Open Air Museum's free outdoor sculpture park near Rhyolite, a ghost town named for the area's buff-colored igneous rock.
Other apparitions gracing the museum's eight acres include the towering pink Lego-like Lady Desert and Albert Szukalski's Ghost Rider. The Belgian artist created the latter—a hollow, shrouded figure that seems to grip the handle of a bicycle—by draping plaster-soaked fabric over a live model. When he finished the piece in 1984, he figured it would last no more than two years. Instead, it's still standing, another case of this odd sculpture collection defying expectations.
Visitors are free to touch, climb, and even step inside the art. The park never closes; a small visitor center is open most days. (702) 870-9946, goldwellmuseum.org.
Photography by David Mancaster
This article was first published in November 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.