Whimsical artwork welcomes Great Basin park visitors
Travelers on State Route 488, which leads from the eastern Nevada town of Baker to Great Basin National Park, are often bemused by the unique collection of rustic artwork found beside the roadway.
Known, collectively, as the Permanent Wave Society, the various works are a truly democratic and spontaneous expression of creativity.
The dozen or so art objects—most built using discarded materials or junk—range from the ridiculous to the sublime. Many, such as the rusting hulk of a 1930s automobile called “Horse with No Name,” have been given tongue-in-cheek titles.
The inspiration for this outdoor gallery was the late “Doc” Sherman, a Baker resident, who, in about 1997, attached an old glove to a fence post, where it appeared to wave to passing cars, hence the society’s name.
“There was a fence post … there was the glove … nd one thing led to another,” Sherman told writer David W. Toll a few years after his epiphany. “If you could put them all over the country you’d eliminate road rage. Everyone would be smiling, even on the LA freeways.”
The project was said to be therapeutic for Sherman, who had been partially paralyzed by a stroke, but still desired to follow his artistic muse.
Sherman soon added additional creations and was joined by other Baker residents, many of which were (and are) working artists, who created their own works along the fence posts.
Now known—naturally—as “Post Impression Art,” the works include …
“Too Tall Tommy,” a faux gravesite that features two mannequin legs, gird with cowboy boots, protruding from the grave.
“Barb and Bob Wire,” two human-like stick figures made of barbed wire and wearing clothes.
“Anywhere But Here,” an unusual human-like figure made using a variety of plastic pipes and sporting a discarded George Forman Mean Lean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine for a head.
A visual pun—a wooden figure of a man who appears to be scrubbing a 2,000-pound weight. Its title is “Washington.”
A striking celestial painting with punched out round holes (not sure what it all means, but the holes allow the wind to pass through so the painting doesn’t get knocked over).
Several alien-like figures, including one sitting in a wheel chair and wearing a pith helmet.
Additionally, there are more than a dozen other works, some without titles and many seemingly random combinations of old car parts, machinery bits and even old animal skeletons.
Over the years, the works have come and gone. Some have disintegrated into the sagebrush while others have been vandalized or stolen. But new works regularly appear, keeping alive the Permanent Wave Society vibe.
Visitors should also check out the town of Baker, which is home to a handful of businesses including the Silver Jack Inn and LectroLux Café, the Getaway Cabin, T & D’s Restaurant, Grocery Store and Lounge and the Border Inn, which has accommodations, a restaurant, lounge and casino (it’s located a few miles outside of Baker on the Nevada-Utah border).
For information about Baker or the Permanent Wave Society, contact the Great Basin Business and Tourism Council, http://www.greatbasinpark.com/.
Richard Moreno has a passion for Nevada, its towns and people.