I make art in strange places and blog about it.

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I Thought I Had Become A Goldfielder – Who Was Rippie, Part 3

I don’t mind being on a need to know basis and sometimes that’s where life leaves me. I had envisioned working on the car forest for the rest of my life or at least for longer than a year and a half. I dreamed of building a facility in Goldfield at the End of the World for artists to have a quiet place to work. It’s quiet and the sky slides over dramatic there, day after day. Sometimes it’s the end when you thought it was the beginning.

Cat's outta' the bag, I may as well tell ya', I'm in Reno. Next week I'm installing my show up at Truckee Meadows Community College and I'd really like everyone to see my new paintings. Being in Goldfield has given me the chance for some quiet time, which is what's needed most for painting and writing–every pro knows this. I'm thankful to the owner of the Car Forest for giving me the opportunity to stay there for a spell.

It’s the perfect town for an art retreat.  I had dreamed of a place like this. There’s nothing much around to distract you from your work and plus the town is centrally situated between the airports of Reno and Vegas, 4 hours from each.

I also had a long standing fascination for outsider artists from Reverend Howard Finster and Adolf Wolfi to Thunder Mountain, Salvation Mountain and Watts Tower.Later I learned of the janitor and secret artist/novelist Henry Darger. These are people who “just do it.” They don’t work to get a degree or an artist rep and they don’t bother to research art history. They simply make weird art obsessively and generally don’t give a damn–no credentials needed. But we like raw don’t we?

Before I ever lived there I had always wanted to be cremated but once I was there I decided I wanted to be buried some day in Goldfield. It’s a destination. The Graveyard is very memorable and it’s the kind of focal place for desert pilgrimages that weird art people of the future might love to make. “Let’s trek across the U.S. to see the Car Forest and the grave of Sorg.”

Maybe you’ve heard, but the town of Goldfield has an obsession with things that are dead. The town is all but dead and ekes out a minimal flow of existence. It was once almost 20,000 people; now 200.

Constant is the barrage of stories from Goldfield’s past. Goldfield had once been something but was now basically nothing, and for that reason, we all love the place. An antique town. Mark Twain had probably been there, yes, stayed there, got the scoop on some story, but he never lived there and President Teddy Roosevelt never visited. I wrote an article about the labor wars there in Goldfield in 1906 and Roosevelt had broken the union; dirty dealings. History and stories like this get distorted and re-purposed.

Picture 198

I was President of the Chamber of Commerce in 2012. It was a kind of fluke really because the town seems to regard the Chamber President kind of like a mayor (Goldfield is unincorporated) and I’m not a mayoral kind of guy. I just wanted to bring people to our town. I had proposed our new town motto “Least Touristy Destination in the West” but it wasn’t a hit. It seemed right to me because I hate touristy places. As a tourist it would have gotten my attention.

Our End of the World Party was not successful. It was on the same weekend as Goldfield Days, which has always had problems creating a draw, and it ended up being a big disappointment. Oh well, although we did get some major media attention from Vegas and Reno but not many campers showed up. Rippie burnt a bus that weekend but it became the most famous party that didn’t really happen. Not by my standards anyway.

Even though we brought bands to entertain at the town’s celebration, the next month the town decided they wanted to impeach me. I never came out to Goldfield days. Instead I was playing host up at our place for the handful of people that did show up and I’m told THAT was my big sin. I didn’t let them fire me and stepped down instead–less time and energy wasted than trying to fight each other. Now that I’m gone I believe the town feels better about my intentions in hindsight.

If Rippie taught me one thing, it is to quit while you’re ahead. That’s a rule of power. He seemed to know quite a few of these rules instinctively. I asked him when did our friendship end, Mark? August 17th, 2012, he replied. That was the day of our ill-fated End of the World party. He got his work out of us–Zak and me–and at that point, our friendship was through. Really strange the specificity of the situation. All the man knows is power-plays and he knew that we were no longer needed. He even had me thrown in jail for a whole week for check fraud before the sheriff’s office decided he was full of shit and they let me walk.

In certain ways Rippie was less full of shit than most people. He saw thru the bullshit of polite society. I respected his courage to let go of what’s generally accepted. Beyond the hillbilly I could see his defiance and a certain level of intelligence. There was generosity beneath the ego. He had a vision and for that reason I could look past the rough edges. He simply couldn’t hurt me.

But his ego betrayed him. What he despised about others kept him apart from them. Now that’s from a more conventional perspective like mine where collaboration is based on mutual respect and cooperation. Rippie liked to challenge. He only knew pressure.

He’s not nice but, well, who gives a fuck?


Picture 197

Publicity -Car Forest & Goldfield

Wall Street Journal (link to come)
Huffington Post (link to come)
High Country News Article (link to come)
Las Vegas Review Journal, One’s a photo slideshow, then the Video (Funny. Sums up the relations in our lil’ town)
Las Vegas City Life (Press in Vegas)
Puhrump Valley Times ( Local(ish) Blurb About Goldfield Days)
Nicholas Rattigan’s blog (funny, personal story from a journalism student)

Salt Lake City’s KSL video and interview
Vincent Cascio’s Black Hawk Virtual Media (3D, REALLY Sumthin!)
Geolocation (where? exactly?)
Slurve Online Magazine (my article)
Photographer Ron Pinkerton’s Flickr (in the lightning and at NIGHT! WOW!)
Reno News & Review (A quick announcement for our party last August)
Nevada Matters RADIO Interview about Goldfield and the Car Forest with Sorg
Sorg’s Art Exhibition at Reno’s Truckee Meadows Community College (Spring of 2013)

Bus End World Poster

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Who Was MichaelMark Rippie?

I’ll speak of him as if he were dead. I got this idea from Mark Twain, the opening of his autobiography. He introduced the book with talk about how he’d need to write as if he were already dead. Exposing such blatant and intimate “privacies”, he’d have to write as if he were already gone.

For the sake of my writings, I’m going to just assume Mark Rippie is dead. One cannot be too careful. At the time of this writing, no, he’s not dead, but being incapacitated as I’m told he is, I don’t think he’ll be reading my words–though he might, so who knows. I’ll write as if he’s gone already.

You’d have to be inside the relationship that he and I had to understand the man’s views at all. His ex-wife seems to understand him and I know that she can’t handle being around him. I can’t stand being around him and I don’t think there are many people at all that do know him and can stand him. Quite simply, he’s not a nice guy. But knowing him as I do, I know that this is not a fact that he’d mind me relaying to you–in fact he’d actually love it. That’s Rippie.

Having said that I’ve gotta’ mention the huge amount of gratitude I have for Michael “Mark” Rippie’s vision. We did end up doing just exactly as he had in mind to do. It was his land and his cars–at least I think they were his–and I just helped him. He said he’d make me famous. Yeah I’m getting some notoriety from what we did. Maybe wealth will follow, we’ll see.

If you’ve ever been around a sociopath you might understand that certain people see the world in a way that only suits their own needs. If you suit their needs then you will be used to facilitate things. I did that. I’m an artist with an interest in outsider artists and environments. Mark Rippie was a determined visionary and certainly an outsider. “Artist” is an arguable label so let’s make it simple: yes.

Is a desert rat unskilled and burying cars with a backhoe an artist? If he’s got someone to publicize him then I guess he is, yes. Besides, I was always the artist. He was the visionary.420081_299463073453366_43964780_n

My friend Zak moved out to Rippie Ranch too because Zak’s the strongest guy I know. I knew he’d be useful to our endeavor. Zak’s got a little girl (6 years old right now) and Goldfield was a great place to raiser her for awhile. She saw a different kind of life than from that in the city. He’s also pretty creative himself, Zak, so it was an effort between the three of us building this car forest.

I met Rippie one day driving thru Goldfield. I let him know how much I appreciated his erect car I spied off the road a bit. Quickly I saw his vision for a whole “forest” of these cars and that very day we met he invited me to come and help him make this happen. He needed an artist to make art out of them once they were standing and in return he’d pay me in room and board. This was around 2004 or 5. I had a driving job installing art shows across the state of Nevada working for the state of Nevada and the stars aligned when Rippie and I met that day.

He pushed the shotgun scabbard aside and I hopped on the back of his four wheeler. His beard is long & frizzled grey and a dingy rolled cigarette stump never leaves the corner of his mouth. He has a revolver on his hip at all times. Even though he talks exactly like the dirty redneck from those movies who”ll blast a hole in ya’ and then rape your corpse, I was game for an adventure.

He said he intended to break the Guinness Book Record; “Carhenge up in Nebaraska has 27 cars stickin’ outta’ the ground”. It wasn’t until the fall of 2011 that I moved to Goldfield full time to live in a dingy trailer beside him and his 7 dogs, but before then I was able to stop and paint a few cars en route through Goldfield for him through the years. He had about 10 in the ground when I got there.581240_354856787913994_930104443_n

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A video from the car forest, 2005 or so:

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