Neon Son

Artist Lincoln Maynard goes back to school with Urbis Octaptych

It’s never too late to return to your alma mater, as local artist Lincoln Maynard has learned.

Born in Portland, Maine, the 60-year-old arrived in Vegas in 1963 a week after President Kennedy was assassinated, and graduated from UNLV in 1975 with degrees in communications and history. An aficionado of heavy blues, he remembers wailing on a harmonica during open-mic jams in The Kitchen, a campus café where students gathered to eat, drink and play music. His mother even taught voice in the music department for many years. Indeed, his memories are of a more free-spirited, less institutionalized UNLV of the counterculture years.

“I’ve always loved the university district, though,” Maynard, long-haired today just as he was during college, says over iced beverages at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf across from the school. “It’s still my favorite area of town. Life and work took me away for so long.”

After working for years on the Strip as a stagehand, Maynard spent the last decade focused on his art—minimalist, abstract, deeply textured paintings that evoke the colorful Nevada desert. He has exhibited at galleries all over Vegas, as well as in Southern California and Oyster Bay, N.Y. Now the UNLV alum returns to campus a conquering hero with a new solo show at the Marjorie Barrick Museum called Urbis Octaptych, an installation that has this normally confident guy acting like a nervous schoolboy.

“They’re either going to love it, or they’re going to run me out of town,” he says with a smile. Or is it a grimace? “I didn’t know if they’d embrace me. I hadn’t set foot on campus for more than 15 years before reaching out to the Barrick.”

Maynard tested the waters participating in a community group exhibit last summer at the Barrick. The gallery’s program director Aurore Giguet took to what she calls Maynard’s “peaceful, mellow” approach to the canvas.

“I appreciate how Lincoln allows viewers to reach their own interpretations,” says Giguet, who has worked at the gallery since 1991 when she began as a student worker. “When he approached us with this installation, I realized how much history he has with UNLV, and especially this building, which is the second oldest structure still on campus.”

Indeed, the Barrick served as UNLV’s basketball gym until the late ’70s. (The school’s old Rebel wolf mascot, Beauregard, can still be found in the center of the gallery’s wooden floor.) Maynard spent countless hours shooting baskets there before and after his classes, goofing around.

There’s no horseplay now. When he stepped into the gallery months ago to consider the main wall, he had every intention of assembling a retrospective. Standing there, however, memories and ideas flooded his brain. He decided to create new work specifically for the show (with a small selection of previous works). He’s auctioning eight pieces at the July 15 reception, proceeds to benefit the Barrick.

Eight 6-by-5-foot paintings, or “windows” as he calls them, will be mounted on the walls. Meanwhile, 16 smaller pieces—to “reflect” the larger canvases—will appear on the floor and opposite wall. Maynard says the effect he’s after is to let viewers consider the notion of life in Vegas as “a series of choices.”

“The future is full of promise, if we know where to look,” he insists. “This is my gloom-killer. Hell, we’re all upside down in our houses; we’re all suffering. So I’m using my creativity to help out, to give back to a place that was and still is so good to me.”

Urbis Octaptych is a beautiful, striking work. Local curator and arts maven Brian Paco Alvarez, who consulted with Maynard during the show’s construction, agrees. “The beauty of Lincoln’s work is that it is transcendent,” Alvarez says. “It has a Zen-like quality that takes hold of you and gives you a sense of calm in an otherwise unforgiving urban landscape. I also just love his work. I have a piece hanging prominently in my living room.”

As much he loves the desert, Maynard admits he is a child of the neon. “I’m an artist of the city, hence the Urbis,” he says. “With this work, I’m saying, “Hey, we can either dwell in the shit or move forward.’ Although this is a homecoming of sorts, I’m still looking to the future.”

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