Between tumbleweed and sky I found a suspended presence in northwest Nevada’s frontier mining town Virginia City and the Silver Terrace Cemetery in the winter of 2016 and 2017. 

Prosperity saddled up next to calamity here from 1859 to 1878, when people from all over the world came after the discovery of the Comstock Lode, the first major silver deposit. Samuel Clemens became Mark Twain here writing about grizzly mining accidents, gunfights and suicidal gamblers in saloons where blood on floors was moped up regularly. Meanwhile, all the money went to the Bank of California helping to build San Fransisco before the silver got depleted. Folks who came to try their luck left town (one way or another), leaving us with their echoes teased out in the scenery.

Lingering on is a boardwalk of saloons, kitschy tourist haunts buoyed by the 1960s tv show Bonanza and a weathered Victorian gravesite with plain wooden headstones mixed with fancy iron fence surrounds on an uneven terrace. Views of bald spots of pulverized rock blemishing hillsides, the effects of natural resource depletion, provide a backdrop to consider the people who mined and died here, forging connections with trauma and nostalgia.

- Jan Arrigo