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Michael C. McMillen Red Trailer Motel

June 21 - October 4, 2003


The University of Wyoming Art Museum is delighted to present Red Trailer Motel as the third in a series of three exhibitions that comprise the architecture program inspired by the 10th anniversary of the Centennial Complex. Michael C. McMillen has created a dynamic response to our invitation to be part of this series. The transformation of the museum's main gallery into an eerie, dreamlike, night-time scene is full of surprises and sure to delight all who experience it.

  • Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wyoming Arts Council through the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming State Legislature, and the National Advisory Board of the UW Art Museum with additional support from Kennecott Corporation.

Red Trailer Motel

The presentation of Red Trailer Motel at the University of Wyoming Art Museum is the result of a remarkable chain of events, which began with a bizarre discovery in the Red Desert of southwestern Wyoming.


Following an invitation from the University of Wyoming, California artist Michael C. McMillen, with a long-standing interest in vernacular folk architecture, stumbled upon, during preparatory research, a newspaper clipping with a brief mention of the discovery of mummified human remains in an apparently forgotten Wyoming motel.

Further investigation established the identity of the deceased as one A. C. Crump, a recluse and sole proprietor of the Red Trailer Motel. His unlikely choice of location near Little Lost Creek, Wyoming, suggests a conflicted personality that both seeks and shuns human contact. Heirless and without any known relatives, Crump's desiccated body was not found for six years (according to forensic evidence) until a uranium prospector came upon the abandoned structure. Investigating authorities were startled to find Mr. Crump sitting upright at his desk, a pencil still clutched in his leathery fingers.

The motel was largely built from salvaged and found items, a testament to Crump's tenacious, independent spirit. With its Cold War, uranium-prospecting heydays behind it, the Red Trailer Motel began a steady decline accelerated by the introduction of Interstate 80. Refusing to acknowledge progress, Crump stubbornly persisted through a combination of government checks, occasional prospectors, and lost tourists desperate for lodging. This hand-to-mouth existence followed him until his last winter.

On April 6, 2001, acting on information gathered by McMillen, the University of Wyoming obtained permission to remove the remaining portion of the derelict structure to Laramie for eventual display as part of a series of architectural exhibitions at the University of Wyoming Art Museum. Ironically, the Red Trailer Motel was transported to Laramie by flatbed trailer on the very interstate that brought about its demise decades earlier.

Due to extreme temperatures, frequently-impassable roads, and complicated private property boundaries, attempts to locate the original site of the Red Trailer Motel are strongly discouraged by the University of Wyoming Art Museum.

Images:

Left: Invitation to the Red Trailer Motel

Center: Installation view: Red Trailer Motel, University of Wyoming Art Museum

Right: Installation view: Red Trailer Motel, University of Wyoming Art Museum


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