It started with a dream. A vision for a place where artists could come together and create fantastical works of art. That dream became a reality for Reno-based artist, Chad Sorg, who wanted to create a "car forest" at the End of the World. The International Car Forest of the Last Church is the manifestation of that dream. It's a hallowed earthen automobile graveyard, with over 40 graffittied cars, trucks and buses. The installation was the brainchild of collaborators, Sorg and Michael "Mark" Rippie.
Rippie owns the 80 acres of land that the art installation was built on, and began the art project back in 2002, with the dream of owning the Guinness Book of World Records title for "most cars planted vertically in the ground." As one does...
Just a half mile off-Highway 95, with its endless blue skies and panoramic vistas, the unincorporated historic mining town of Goldfield, NV is truly an artist's paradise. Once boasting a population of over 20,000 people, Goldfield now has only 200 people living within it.
As Sorg states: "It’s the perfect town for an art retreat. There’s nothing much around to distract you from your work. Also the town features a centrality between Reno and Vegas and not much else!"
Inspired by such "outsider" works of art as Thunder Mountain Monument, Salvation Mountain and Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historical Park, Sorg was entranced by the "just do it" attitude of these folk art impresarios: "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."
Sorg loves Goldfield so much (he was recently President of the Chamber of Commerce, which is considered tantamount to a mayor), and he even wants to be buried there. He believes in the car graveyard as a place of creation and inspiration that he sees it as a key destination for desert pilgrimages "that weird art people of the future might love to make."
As President of the Chamber of Commerce, Sorg organized an event to take place during the annual "Goldfield Days" celebration. It was going to be Burning Man, minus the peyote. Dubbed "The End of the World Party", it was concocted to introduce the world to the car forest, "a field of several dozen upright cars, buried nose-first in the desert dirt." Think Henry's Rabbit Ranch meets Cadillac Ranch. During the party a bus was set on fire.
When asked about the comparisons with Burning Man, Sorg had this to say:
It has been compared to BM many times now, yes. Burning Man organization actually approached the town of Goldfield, years ago, and the county commissioners at the time turned them down, for some fuckin' reason. The difference with our event is the terrain, uneven and with features such as Joshua trees and, oh, 40 erect vehicles. But also I want to point out the lack of light pollution here, as there is a meteor currently happening. Yeah, we made that happen -- we know a guy. One huge difference is the fact that downtown Goldfield (civilization) is a 10-minute walk from the Car Forest.
The "End of the World" party was supposed to be a big success for Goldfield. Sorg's crowning achievement to bring publicity and exposure to the cute, historic town. It wasn't.
According to Sorg:
I never came out to Goldfield days. Instead I was playing host up at our place for the people that did show up and I’m told THAT was my big sin. Even though we brought bands to entertain at the town’s celebration, the next month the town decided they wanted to impeach me. So I didn’t let them fire me, I told them I’d step down so my Vice President would take over–less time wasted than trying to fight it. Now that I’m gone I believe the town feels better about my intentions.
Unfortunately, Sorg and Rippie had a falling out, and no longer work together. Rippie is in jail on gun charges and Sorg is allegedly working on a motel in Reno.
As Sorg says: "Nothin' a bus stickin' out of the ground can't fix."