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“East Meets West” in Ghost Town Cisco

Todd Powelson

It must have been as far back as the summer of 1996. Not all that often, but occasionally that summer I’d travel down to the ghost town Cisco to do some weekend work in the surrounding area and earn a little extra cash. It was kind of nice to get away from time to time. Cisco is a small rusted out and dilapidated town located in the desert about 50 miles east of Green River, abandoned years and years before I ever arrived. The work I was doing wasn’t hard at all, but it could be kind of spooky because there was absolutely no one else around. There was a little trailer set up among the abandoned buildings that I was able to spend a night or two in as I got my work done, but not much else going on except maybe a bird flying overhead, or maybe a tumbleweed rolling along. The truth is, I didn’t mind much at all. I kind of like and find peace in solitude, and the landscape and sky down there are inspiring. Still, it is easy for my mind and imagination to wander, and I can really spook myself sometimes.

Earlier that year, some artists had come down and taken over one of the abandoned buildings. They built sculptures, painted and hung photos, and turned the place into a remote art installation and sort of gallery, and then left town to find their next project. I was always aware of their building, because one of the sculptures was made of strung up twine or wire and, when the wind would blow, the piece would whistle and create these very weird and eerie sounds. And the wind blew down there a lot, pretty much all the time.

Of course, I was interested in that building. I had to check it out. Crossing the field behind the building I came across a rattle snake, which was maybe an omen of some kind, but I just moved around it no big deal and made my way to the door. I remember the sky was sunset red, which isn’t all that important, but it seems somehow significant now and really stands out in my mind. As soon as I entered the building, I saw rattlesnakes again, crawling in all of the corners. They seemed to have a place to go though, and quickly disappeared into the floor or retreated around corners. I’d already come into the building by then and didn’t feel especially threatened, although the floor did feel kinda “soft”, and I imagined myself falling through it into a rattlesnake den or something. Since I was already in the main room, I looked around. There was a smashed TV, old abandoned toys and dolls, some broken furniture, weird old cowboy boots mounted on shovels or something, and hung along one of the walls was a row of photos. It was a row of portraits, but they showed the back of peoples heads. I checked it all out but didn’t stick around in there too long, because it was a creepy scene, and I did like the sculpture out front a little more. That noisy one. Then I went back to the trailer, read for a while, fell asleep, and haven’t thought about Cisco much since. Except maybe I have…

The only reason I bring it up now is because I dreamed I was there again last night. I dreamed I was in that room with all of those snakes, the broken furniture, looking at photos of the back of peoples heads, a sun-burnt sky glaring through the shattered windows, with these bizarre and spooky sounds blaring in my head. The actual real-life experience was nowhere near as freaky as my dream. It wasn’t pleasant, but I guess that experience meant something, since it woke me up in a panic in the middle of the night some 16 years later.

When I got up this morning, I did a quick search to see if I could find any more information on the art installation. I guess Time Magazine did a write-up on it the next year, and I have posted that below:

Todd Powelson
Todd Powelson works as a Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Visual Artist.

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