Nevada-inspired diorama a labor of love for creators
A diorama fashioned by a Nevada sculptor and a Carson City friend who loves doing blacksmith work is nearly finished and available for display during the state’s sesquicentennial.
Some seven years in the making, the Old West scene was made using an old Conestoga wagon wheel wire, various metals — some of them precious — and LED lighting that helps it come to life, according to Dan Mooney, one of the pair who made it. He worked on it with Greg Melton, a well-known Silver State sculptor whose work adorns outdoor areas near government buildings in Carson City.
“Greg and I have known each other for 35 years,” Mooney said while showing off the diorama, now in the garage of his Carson City home. It used to be at his blacksmith shop in the Carson Valley, he said, but has been moved for finishing touches and display.
“We had it hanging right next to the forge,” Mooney said.
The idea years ago was to do Nevada’s great seal, he said, but the pair found there was a trio of great seals. Over time, he said, “it morphed into what you see here.” The diorama features a cowboy figure playing a guitar sitting on a porch in front of a cabin, as well as other figures, and includes mountains in the background with clouds overhead.
“Every one of those little things was months and months in preparation,” Mooney said. “We argued like hell over the clouds for a couple of years.”
Materials include native Nevada metals — iron, silver, gold, copper, brass and bronze. At first, the pair used regular electrical lighting behind some of the scene to enliven it, Mooney said, but that proved too hot. So a switch was made to LED lighting, which is working fine.
Both men were involved in all the work, but Mooney said a division of labor was involved at times. For example, he said, Melton worked a great deal on the figures and cabin while he concentrated on trees, mountains and clouds.
Mooney said that through a friend, he had an informal understanding with the late Gov. Kenny Guinn and he thought it might wind up commissioned for some display, but that was early in the process. He still hopes it will be picked up for display by someone in the imminent celebration of Nevada’s 150th year.
“We’d like to get this thing involved with the sesquicentennial,” he said. “I think it fits.”
Melton is known for various sculptures, among them his miner with a pickax wielded over this head that stands near the state Supreme Court building and his likeness of Adolph Sutro, who built Sutro Tunnel, which stretches for miles from near Dayton to beneath the Comstock mines. The tunnel was an engineering feat in the late 19th century. That sculpture is near the Capitol.
Mooney, a retired consultant and state administrator, has the blacksmith forge and shop on an acre in Carson Valley where he enjoys tinkering. He said it is still functional, but he doesn’t go out to it as much as in former years.
“It’s not for making money,” he said, but it was where much of the diorama work was done.