I first saw Seven Magic Mountains on my way to Las Vegas (NV) in December of 2016. I was heading south on I-15 when to my right, out in the desert…What is that? I wondered.
In the middle of undeveloped nature rose several bright, multicolored pillars. They rose up from the desert floor, no other signs of humanity near them. What in the world could they be?
By the time I saw the pillars, I would have had to backtrack to visit them, and I hate to backtrack. Besides, I didn’t know if it was possible to visit the pillars or if there was an admission fee. Also, I was excited to get to Vegas and see my friends, so I decided to just keep going.
I tried to describe the pillars to The Poet and The Activist in hopes they could offer some explanation. They’re bright, colorful blocks stacked on each other in the middle of the desert…
My friends knew exactly what I was talking about. It was an art installation called Seven Magic Mountains, they said.
Wow! Large-scale art installations impress me, and this one was so brightly colored. Both the size and the colors of this one were awesome. The bright colors made each block look as if it had been sculpted from Play-Doh, but such an endeavor would have taken a lot of the modeling compound. Even though I hadn’t gotten close to the pillars, it was obvious that each block was huge.
While I was out and about in Vegas, I found a free informational card dedicated to the installation. I picked up the card and learned a few things about Seven Magic Mountains.
The artist responsible for the piece is Ugo Rondionone. On the card, Seven Magic Mountains is described as
a large-scale, site specific public artwork…
locally sourced limestone boulders stacked vertically in groups ranging from three to six. Each stone boasts a different fluorescent color; each individual totem stands between 30 and 35 feet high.
The card also gave the dates of display of the installation as May 2016 to May 2018. I felt sad I hadn’t stopped to see the installation when I was passing by. I hadn’t realized the towers would only be there for a specific period of time. I wasn’t going to pass that way when I left Vegas, and I didn’t know when I’d return to Vegas via I-15. I may have missed my only chance to see the art up close.
As luck would have it, I ended up heading to Vegas again in October 2017. As I left Baker, CA and got closer to Vegas, I remembered the bright towers. I texted The Poet and asked her
Are those giant colorful blocks still out in the desert between here and Vegas? If they are, I probably should stop and see them.
She wrote back
yes they r. last I saw. magic mountains something like that
That was enough information to get me there.
Right before exit 12 for NV-161 toward Jean/Goodsprings, I saw a small brown sign simply reading Seven Magic Mountains so I took the exit. When I reached the stop sign, there was a second brown sign, again reading Seven Magic Mountains and pointing to the right. I turned, came to a stop sign, and found no indication of which way I should go. How are visitors supposed to know which way to turn? I guess the sign posters figure if drivers don’t see the art to the right as they approach the exit, they’ll know to turn left at the unsigned intersection. I thought I had maybe missed the art, so I pulled into the casino parking lot and turned on my GPS to get me there.
The Google Maps lady on my phone (I call her Mildred Amsterdam) told me to take a left onto Las Vegas Blvd. I drove about five miles, then saw the colorful blocks on my right. This was it! I was almost there.
Signs along the road warn drivers not to park on the shoulder. There’s a fairly large parking area, just follow the signs to get there.
Once I was parked, I put on my hat, locked up my van, and walked out into the desert toward the art.
First stop was an sign with some information about the installation. These are some of the things I learned:
The artwork extends [the artist’s] long-running interest in natural phenomena and their reformulation in art. Inspired by naturally occurring Hoodoos and balancing rock formations, the stacks also evoke the art of meditative rock balancing.
As I walked closer to the installation, I counted the columns. I only saw six. Wait. What? I thought. This is supposed to be Seven Magic Mountains. Are their only six?
I stopped and counted again. Only six. Then I moved to the right, and the seventh mountain appeared! There are seven columns, but from different perspectives some of the columns line up and only six of them are visible at once. Ah, the artist was playing with the viewers. Fun!
The desert floor was almost empty as I approached the art. Only small, scrubby bushes grow in the area. I guess venomous snakes are an issue because there were a couple of signs warning visitors to watch out for them. I didn’t want to end up like my friend who was bitten by a rattler, so I was careful where I put my feet.
It was really cool to walk among the totems. I enjoyed looking up at them and seeing the bright colors against the blue sky. Everyone out there seemed to be having a good time.
The pillars are totally incongruous and also totally right. The colors stand out against the earth tones of the desert environment, but the size of the columns fit in the wide-openness of the desert. Their scale is just right. I guess Ugo Rondinone knew what he was doing when he decided to put the bright boulders out there.
If Seven Magic Mountains is gone by the time you go to Vegas, Jen Reviews has a list of 100 other things you can do while you’re there.