Artful Heights

Michael Shulman re-examines the hotel chandelier for a good cause

Some of the images resemble gorgeous sea anemones; others look like sparkling extraterrestrial beings. But in reality, they’re enhanced and embellished photographs of what those of us who live and work in Las Vegas encounter every day—chandeliers.

Writer/artist Michael Shulman (add philanthropist and local celeb, too, as he was recently honored as one of the Vegas Dozen by Saks Fifth Avenue and Nevada Cancer Institute) first captured many of the high-res images that comprise his show, Beauty From Above, with a Leica camera while on assignment for Vegas magazine. His mission was to stay in and evaluate 13 of the top Vegas hotel suites, all expenses paid.

So why did such a cushy job lead to Shulman working barefoot in a T-shirt and shorts, covered in makeup and nearly high on the fumes of nail polish and spray-on body glitter in a ventilation-challenged studio?

“Many of these suites had the most absurdly ornate chandeliers,” he says, “and I just started taking pictures of them from different perspectives and vantages.” Shulman had the photos transferred onto large-format canvases (up to 9-by-5 feet), then painted over sections with makeup. He was inspired after a drag-artist friend ended a phone conversation citing the need “to paint.”

“I thought, ‘You know, makeup is shimmery and shiny. I wonder why no one uses it to paint with?’ Well, I’ll tell you why: Because using that little nail-painting brush on an enormous canvas is really difficult for a guy with ADHD. And … ugh … the fumes!”

But he braved the difficulties for a higher purpose. Shulman is donating 15 percent of the pre-commission profits from his show to Keep Memory Alive, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Nathan Adelson Hospice. So it’s an event in which great art is sold for some great causes.

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