Sculpture Inspires Artists Through Works Of Da Vinci


Mischell Riley spent nearly a year building a 10-by-23-foot cement sculpture of Leonardo Da Vinci that weighs close to seven tons. She endured heat up to 105 degrees working with cement ”” an unforgiving medium she’d never sculpted with before ”” to finish the project. Her suffering in building the piece, which included having to rely on private funding sources after grants fell through, just adds to its significance.

“This piece was about my breaking out,” she said. “I think it speaks to all artists who are stuck in a rut. It can be anybody jumping out of your stuck routine, taking a big risk, putting yourself through bootcamp and coming out the other side.”

She debuted the sculpture on the Black Rock Desert during this year’s Burning Man. It is open in back, large enough for people to walk inside where they are exposed to the works of da Vinci. As she describes it, “Inside the Head of da Vinci” is a fantasy.

“Imagine walking in a dust storm and you stumble upon a great big piece of art. You walk around it, and you realize it’s the face of Leonardo da Vinci,” she explained. “You realize it’s Renaissance-era art and the back half is rusted off. You can actually go inside his mind.”


Typically, when commissioned to create a sculpture, she creates the artwork then hands it off to the customer. With Burning Man, she was able to watch people interact with her piece, seeing the works of da Vinci from inside his own head.

“I got lots of people crying. One guy was just sobbing,” she said. “This is so powerful. It’s life changing.” She now has multiple offers to display the sculpture in public spaces.

“It is perfect as a public area to gather and talk, a community gathering space,” Riley said. “I hope it inspires action.”

Born in Phoenix, Riley grew up in Colorado has lived in Nevada since 1992 and Carson City for the past six years. She worked on the MGM lions in Las Vegas and has commissioned sculptures across the country, including in Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, Colorado and Arizona.


“I was a two-time Junior Olympics Gold Medalist in the high jump and entered college with seven scholarships in track and two scholarships in art,” Riley said. “I was a six-time All-American and qualified for the United States Olympic Team, but failed to participate due to injuries. The motivation, dedication and discipline I developed as an athlete I have maintained and relied on in my art.”

The sculpture is now on display at the University of Nevada, Reno and may be moved to Carson City.

Riley said people who see it should feel motivated to create in their own way. “It inspires, ”˜Wow, I’m inside the mind of this great man.’ It inspires you to think of your own great ideas,” Riley said. “It has an energy of ”˜tag, you’re it’. I get goosebumps thinking about it.”

For More Information

Learn more about Inside the Mind of da Vinci sculpture and artist Mischell Riley at http://www.bronzesbymischell.com.