Golden, New Mexico, 87047, United States
Leroy Gonzales is happy to introduce visitors to his work, and usually leaves the front fence/gate open even if he is not at home.
About the Artist/Site
The former mayor of Golden, NM (population 37) is able to see the bottle fence that Ardell Scartaccini had built glinting from across the road, the remains of the New Mexico Glass Garden that once formed the perimeter of Scartaccini’s Turquoise Trail Shop. It is not unlikely that he would have been influenced by that mode of simple and inexpensive decoration, and a small bottle fence now stretches across the frontage of Gonzales’s small property just north of the center of Golden.
But Gonzales’s inspiration also comes from other sources as well. With large “welcome, come in” signs flanking the driveway entrance, the site clearly references the half kitschy/half naive roadside attractions that abundantly border the byroads of rural New Mexico. Just inside the bottle fence, in a surprising change of medium, Gonzales has sculpted his dog and cat out of the adobe earth; they lie, monumental in size, sprawled out in the center of the property. But the dog has a purpose, as well: it is plumbed so that Gonzales can use the rising water shooting out of a depression in the animal’s back to rinse rock…a process essential to the mining of gold.
And that is the second inspiration that clearly stimulated Gonzales’s constructions: behind his property rise the forested hills of the Ortiz mountains, which are still producing gold for hardy miners who stake their claims and go about the hard business of digging and rinsing dirt and stones with the dream of becoming a millionaire. Although Golden itself has actually been considered a ghost town since 1928, it had been the site of the first gold rush west of the Mississippi River, in 1825. To underscore this history, Gonzales has created a “Gold Mine” toward the rear of the visitors’ area in front of his home: a shack constructed from recycled timber that references the shoddy cabins of the miners. Toward the back of the shack, whose roof touches the ground at the rear, and thus prevents adults from entering the constricted space without crouching or crawling, he has installed two mirrors to trick the eye and the mind into thinking that the tunnel into the earth goes on forever.
A new “Cantina”—actually, the façade of a cantina—had recently been completed at the time of my visit in early November 2014; Gonzales was still grappling with the size of the window, and whether a second one should be added on the opposite side of the centrally-located glass “door.” Musing about the aesthetics of the placement, he nevertheless was delighted with his construction, and proud to show it off to the casual visitor.
Leroy Gonzales is happy to introduce visitors to his work, and usually leaves the front fence/gate open even if he is not at home. Perhaps somewhat wistfully recalling the days of his greater community prominence as mayor, this small environment of diverse works provides him with the opportunity to command the attention of visitors once again.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
Golden, New Mexico, 87047 us
Latitude/Longitude: 35.266986 / -106.213913
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