Mirage makers

If Death Valley isn’t vast enough, mean enough, hot enough or bad enough to make dehydrated hikers start hallucinating, sculptures at the Goldwell Open Air Museum near Rhyolite, Nev., created by a gang of artists from Belgium fill the bill -- and don’t fade from view.

I am the penguin: To conjure the spirit of Frank “Shorty” Harris, artist Fred Bervoets made a two-dimensional steel cutout, above, of the early 20th century prospector who stood just 5 feet, 4 inches tall. Shorty stands fixed to a spot at the 7.8-acre outdoors museum somewhat near the desert where he once mined for gold. The land of rock and sand felt alien to Bervoets so the artist grasped for a symbol as out of place as he felt in the desert. Hence the penguin, a self-portrait that casts Bervoets as Shorty’s fish-out-of-water sidekick.

The local haunts: Conversely, the late Albert Szukalski loved the desert and kicked off the desert sculpture project in 1984. He created ghostly forms for his works by covering real humans in burlap and daubing their bodies with plaster that dried instantly in the desert heat. (He later coated the figures with fiberglass after some pieces were vandalized). Although “Ghost Rider” pairs a single shrouded form with a bicycle, similar ghostly figures double as disciples in his take on “The Last Supper.”

The Goldwell Open Air Museum is free and open 24/7. Check out the sculptures with a “ghost docent” at

-- Mary Forgione