Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The artist and the senator: One built a desert masterpiece, the other a Nevada legacy

When Sen. Harry Reid heard about a reclusive artist building a massive land sculpture across desolate acres in the Nevada desert, he knew they should meet. It’s not just that Reid enjoys eccentrics and fighters, which he does. Michael Heizer had found an unusual way to express the majesty — and artistry — of the same lonely Nevada landscape that formed Reid’s childhood, when he would escape the dismal, rugged conditions of tiny Searchlight to play in the desert’s hidden springs and abandoned fortresses. Both men discovered in Nevada what many outsiders miss. Far from seeing a nuclear wasteland, a dumping site or even a playground for gamblers, they drew inspiration from Nevada’s quiet beauty. Heizer created an American masterpiece — a mile-long complex of dirt, rock and cement rising from the desert floor like modern-day pyramids or the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. For Reid, his appreciation for Nevada’s unique landscape became a cornerstone of one of the most lasting yet less-familiar pieces of his political legacy. The senator ends his lengthy career in Congress known mostly as the crusty Democratic leader who helped broker President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishments and established a new standard for the partisan brawls of Washington. Back home, Reid will be remembered for literally rewriting of the map of Nevada, fostering a public lands conservation movement that has helped redefine the Silver State. Not surprisingly, the senator orchestrated the preservation of Heizer’s stunning land art, “City,” personally appealing to Obama to use the 1906 Antiquities Act to proclaim the installation and 700,000 surrounding acres protected as a national monument. But also on Reid’s watch, Nevada’s protected public lands have grown from 67,000 acres of wilderness at the start of his career to more than 4 million acres of new parks, wilderness areas and open spaces today...more

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