Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Basque Sheepherder Monument at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno, Nevada

The Basque Sheepherder Monument with UNR's hillside letter “N” in the background
The Basque Sheepherder Monument is located northwest of the University of Reno, Nevada, surrounded by a few trees and sagebrush next to the Rancho San Rafael disc golf course. This is where the hilly landscape of the lower Peavine area with its many hiking and mountain biking trails merges with Reno neighborhoods. The monument platform offers fantastic views of the Truckee Meadows and the slopes of the Peavine mountain including the white hillside-letter “N”.

The 23-feet tall bronze sculpture is the work of the Basque sculptor Nestor Basterretxea, who gave the monument the title “Bakardade,” or “Solitude” [1,2]. It takes an attention-paying view of the relatively abstract bronze column to see what it depicts. The sculpture shows a shepherd carrying a lamb over his shoulder under a full moon.
Map of the Unites States indicating Basque Settlements
The first generation of Basque immigrants to the United States were mostly sheepherds. The bronze map of the United States at the base of the sculpture depicts areas in which Basques settled and their descendents live. Basque historic sites are found in various and remote places throughout the west-American landscape; for example at Whiskey Creek Camp, a former Basque sheepherder's camp in the Branite Chief Wilderness west of the Five Lakes basin.

Basques are diaspora people living in may parts of the globe. Even the Basque Country, their homeland in northeast Spain and southwest France, may be considered as part of the diaspora, as the out-of-Asia theory is supported by scientific evidence. On the back cover of the book by Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe in the series “Images of America“ with the title “The Basques of Reno and the Northeastern Sierra we read:

Thanks to DNA research, the Basque of the Pyrenees Mountains are no longer the “mystery people.” Thirty-five thousand years ago, they traveled from Central Asia to Western Europe, where they still live, speaking a language unlike any other. After helping Columbus discover America, Basques spread out from the Pampas to California and beyond into the Sierra and Reno, Nevada.

New plaques with names of Basque sheepherders
The original bronze plaques at the monument, tributing to the story of Basque emigration to the Unites States, were stolen a few years ago. The plaques have been reconstructed and are now replaced by steel plaques thanks to support from the Washoe County Open Space and Regional Parks Commission [2].

Getting to The National Monument To The Basque Sheepherder

Take exit 13 on Interstate 80 in Reno and head north on Virginia Street. Pass the intersection of Virginia street and North McCarran Blvd. and then turn left (west) to get to the parking area at the Reno Sports Complex (2975 North Virginia Street). Park for free. Find the trail map kiosk in the northwest corner of the parking area, where the disc golfers enter “their” territory. A short, northwest-bound trail is your access to the monument platform.
Alternately, if you like to combine strolling and hiking, walk through the Wilbur D. May Arboretum toward Herman's Pond and further to the McCarran underpass. Pass through and hike uphill between the grove and the disc golf  sites.

Continue exploring Reno-Tahoe.

References and more to explore

[1] Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe: The Basques of Reno and the Northeastern Sierra. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina, 2009.
[2] Basque Sheepherder Monument: Restoration [].

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci resting on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno

“Inside the Mind of da Vinci” sculpture at University of Nevada, Reno (UNR)
A giant head lies on the snow-covered lawn between the Virginia Street parking garage and the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center: the head of a Giant of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci [1-3]. This larger-than-life sculpture is made out of  diverse materials (concrete, bronze, metal, glass). The snow above the beard is temporary; it's not left-over shaving foam. As I understand, Leonardo never shaved. He did not portray himself, but every portrait made by other artists shows him with his magnificient flowing beard [4]. And now here it flows on a Nevada campus about halfway-around-the-world away from Leonardo da Vinci's original places of creativity.

Although Leonardo was interested in both body and mind, this sculpture by artist Mischell Riley and her team wants to highlight the mind. The title of this sculpture project is “Inside the Mind of da Vinci.” The back of the head allows you to walk into the open head and get in touch with its inner sides, which reveal etchings of Leonardo's sketches and writings; a section of which is shown below.

The da Vinci head had its debut in the desert: at the Burning Man 2016 event, which had its art theme inspired by the Italian Renaissance [5]. A flyer next to the sculpture outlines further details and the travel route of the head:

Fresh off the playa of Burning Man 2016, this larger than life sculpture head of Leonardo da Vinci weighs seven tons and is made of concrete, bronze, recycled glass and metal. Walk behind the sculpture to view some of da Vinci's sketches and writings and draw inspiration from this famous polymath. Imagine what your mind can do! Artist Mischell Riley created the sculpture prototype using 3D scanning and print to-scale modeling in the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library. Inside the Mind of Da Vinci was unveiled at the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center on November 17, 2016. The exhibit will move to a permanent home in Carson City in May 2017.

Seven tons of head. Maybe one ton of beard? And a weigh-less mind that still creates heavy impacts on the flows and directions of our current endeavours in the arts and sciences.

References and more to explore
[1] Nevada Sagebrush: Look inside the mind of da Vinci [].
[2] University of Nevada, Reno: Inside the Mind of da Vinci [].
[3] Mischell Riley: Inside the Mind of da Vinci [].
[4] Bearded Legends - Leonardo da Vinci [].
[5] Burning Man: 2016 Art Theme: Da Vinci's Workshop [].