A joyful journey to the seven magic mountains

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

This week our theme is colorblocking, so I thought it made sense to kick things off with some colorful blocks. I’d seen pictures of what looked like neon colored boulders in the desert pop up here and there in my instagram feed, which sparked my curiosity. The boulders are an installation called Seven Magic Mountains, by artist Ugo Rondinone. (Incidentally, if you have been watching the #joyspotting feed, you may have noticed that there is an exhibit of Rondinone’s work in New York right now too, at the Gladstone Gallery.)

As luck would have it, my friend Maggie Hartnick visited the Seven Magic Mountains a few weeks ago, and I asked if she’d be willing to share her impressions. Here is Maggie’s take, along with some tips in case you choose to make the journey yourself!

stacked neon rock sculptures in the desert

How did you first hear about the Magic Mountains?

The Director of Arts at Kickstarter came in to my company to present some of her favorite creative Kickstarter projects, and Seven Magic Mountains was one of them. I was fortuitously meeting friends in Las Vegas for an upcoming weekend, and that immediately went to the top of my to-do list when I was there.

What inspired you to go?

Land Art is one of my favorite types of art, so I would travel any distance to go see an extraordinary work, especially in unexpected places (like 30 minutes outside Las Vegas in the desert!). I only needed to see a picture of the Stonehenge-like structures in psychedelic colors to immediately look it up further and make plans to see it. Even if I weren’t going to Vegas, I would have made sure to see it in its two-year stay in the desert.

What was it like to encounter the sculptures in the desert? What was the most joyful part of the experience?

I thought I had been prepared for Vegas, but my body reacted pretty poorly to the labyrinthine, smoke-filled, dystopian environment. I was already breathing easier once we left the Strip and entered into the moon-like desert just outside the city. Our cab driver was from Las Vegas, but had no idea where we were going, so when the pop of colors appeared out of nowhere in the distance, the excitement was palpable. None of us had any idea what to expect, but I don’t think any of us (our cab driver included) expected the exuberance that arose as we approached Seven Magic Mountains. We were fortunate that there were very few people there, so it really did feel like a discovery, and a secret. That part made the whole experience that much more magical and personal.

Vegas seemed to me like such an affront to nature and progress and health and beauty, and somehow this experience felt like a redemption from all that. The sculptures were more monumental than I expected, and the juxtaposition of the vivid colors against the dry desert landscape was so striking. Just 25 minutes away from a city dedicated to human indulgence and excess was a man-made tribute to the incredible natural desert “voo dos” — technicolor totems that celebrated the beauty and surreality of the natural landscape around us. You couldn’t help but smile the whole time. It was a very necessary burst of happiness that made the world seem right again.

stacked neon boulders sculpture in the desert

Do you recommend going? Do you have any tips for someone who wants to go?

Yes, go before it’s not there anymore! I would go just after breakfast before the desert gets too hot, and to miss any crowds. You don’t need a car — the Uber was $30 round trip. Just note that there are no bathrooms or places to get water, so be prepared!

The Seven Magic Mountains will be on view until May 2018. All images courtesy of Maggie Hartnick.
October 10th, 2016


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