Signs of (Still) Life

Contemporary realist oil painter Jelaine Faunce finds inspiration in the Neon Boneyard

Jelaine Faunce creates hyper-realistic renderings of appealing subjects that instantly engage the viewer. Her oil-on-canvas paintings offer close-up views of decadent desserts, exquisitely wrapped gifts, china teacups, glistening sushi and grease-drenched fast food. In addition to making you hungry, Faunce’s art stirs nostalgia for a reality that doesn’t quite exist, one that is better than real.

For a new solo show at TastySpace in Emergency Arts, Faunce is turning her paintbrush toward her native Las Vegas. The artist is exploring intense color and abstraction through her Fractured Neon series, which was inspired by a visit to the Neon Museum’s Boneyard. Those sun-drenched, weather-beaten signs allow Faunce to focus her realism on the texture of industrial, metallic surfaces; layers of peeling paint; and the apparatus of lighting. She abstracts her compositions from the signs’ letters and shapes, through a process of zooming in on her subject, so that the viewer sees only fragments of the original signage. According to Faunce, the Fractured Neon series represents a new trajectory for her, as she focuses more on “color, rhythm, pattern, and visual effect” in a contemporary realistic vein.

Here are some tasty samples from her show. “Ar” (24 by 24 inches, oil on canvas) is a composition in red, bluish-gray, black and white, with details that include peeling paint on metal, fragile light bulbs and empty sockets. It’s not to be confused with “Arrt” (24 by 24 inches, oil on canvas, pictured above). In the piece “Little Red Vegas I,” (8 by 8 inches, oil on canvas), a neon milkman delivers. And “El” (24 by 24 inches, oil on canvas) shows the classic El Cortez sign vividly abstracted.

Faunce, who received a bachelor’s degree in fine art from UNLV in 1996, is a prolific painter with a growing level of national success. Her exhibition history spans more than a decade, with shows in Atlanta, Texas, New York and Mexico. In addition to TastySpace, she’s represented by two out-of-state galleries (Elliott Fouts in Sacramento and Dean Day in Houston). Her work is held in several private and corporate collections in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Faunce also conducts online painting tutorials and is writing a book about her artistic process.

Local art buyers are inured to the perpetual “blue light” that spins over the Las Vegas art market, with lower prices than many major cities and a slower pace to close the deal. But be warned: Faunce’s work, with its national appeal, often sells out quickly.

TastySpace’s Tastemaker

In the labyrinth of galleries that call Emergency Arts home, TastySpace (with the subtitle “Las Vegas Art Gallery & Home of Visual Awesomeness”) sets itself apart without being snooty. Though a newbie among Las Vegas galleries (it’s only been open for about six months), TastySpace isn’t brash or pushy. Likewise, proprietor Dana Satterwhite has a calm and collected demeanor. He prefers to feature artwork with a strong graphic focus, which he attributes to his previous career in “advertising and branding.” Before relocating to Las Vegas six years ago, Satterwhite worked at major ad agencies and as a freelance designer in Boston and New York City.

Satterwhite shows the mostly 2-D art to its best advantage, using the gallery space economically for maximum visual impact—akin to laying out a magazine ad. Satterwhite edits his exhibitions to the point that TastySpace is an extension of himself: His taste is his space and the blend is umami. Ultimately his selections are intuitive, based on “the work and the person,” and Satterwhite says he only features artists who “I know, like, respect and trust.”