Downstairs, your artistic senses sweat. Upstairs, they play.
Either way, they get a workout.
“For our students, we are oftentimes the first opportunity they have to experience an art gallery,” says Jeff Fulmer, visual resources specialist and art instructor in the College of Southern Nevada’s Department of Fine Arts. “It’s really important for us to show them the range of art.”
Between the artistic and intellectual complexities of the esoteric Post Rural (that’s downstairs in the campus’ Fine Arts Gallery) and the intriguing playfulness of the comic End of the Rainbow (that’s upstairs in the Artspace Gallery), the range is sizable.
Teamwork created the pastiche-like Post Rural, featuring the work of nine nonlocal artists: Brad Allen, James Bailey, Kevin Bell, Matt Hamon, Karina Hean, Trey Hill, Nicole Pietrantoni, Edgar Smith and Noah Wilson.
“A lot of the artists exhibiting here are faculty or were faculty at the University of Montana,” Fulmer explains. “They exhibited there several times and realized they had some sort of connection in that they all had lived or came from urban settings and then were in a more rural setting. A lot of their artwork wound up being a response to that shift.”
Highly conceptual, Post Rural’s sculptures, paintings and digital prints are a mixed-media smorgasbord, using materials including oil, aluminum, plastic, ceramics, linoleum, plywood, charcoal, graphite and even tree bark and house paint. Complex, interpretative pieces suggest a dichotomy of the American West, as explained in a sometimes densely worded exhibition statement on behalf of the artists.
“While engaged in their surroundings, [urban transplants] remain permanent visitors, with strong ties and identities linked to other places and urban centers [and] such incomplete integration seems to be a new and important demographic vector in the West,” the statement reads.
“The grafting of non-placed-based industries, like data-server farms, package-processing depots, health care centers and Internet startup companies imply a more partial and contingent relationship to the land than ranches and mines. Perhaps this marks a redefinition of this place so steeped in mythic and legendary history.”
Translation: Rural spaces are changing, affected by an influx of non-natives and their non-rural ways. “It definitely seemed like it would be something to challenge our students and require them to think,” Fulmer says.
Though not as grand a concept as exploring geographic and social transformations, the second of CSN’s dual exhibits, End of the Rainbow by Michael Ogilvie (an adjunct professor in CSN’s art department) is equally captivating in a more puckish, but deceptively deep fashion. Unlike Post Rural—encased in a self-contained gallery adjacent to the Horn Theatre—Rainbow lines the open walls inside the main building’s second floor, easily viewable to passing students.
“This was a really popular exhibit when I was installing it, a lot of students stopped by and asked about it,” Fulmer says of Ogilvie’s comic book-style drawings. “[Students] were amazed at the quality of the line work and of the shading. They were really surprised they were done by hand.”
Featuring a big, adorable teddy bear, they embody what Ogilvie calls his “viciously cute visual poetry for the connoisseur of fanatical conjecture,” and if that sounds like there’s more to it than mere cartoon imagery, it’s precisely what Ogilvie intends.
Though depicted wearing a big, goofy grin in a succession of fun, outlandish poses that at first glance harken back to childhood innocence, the bear also encounters elements that hook into more adult notions. Several times, it shares the frame with a weapon here, a topless woman there, even one disturbing piece in which he is sliced in half—and still smiling.
“Comics have for years been a refuge for children, and revisiting those images as an adult can link one to a memory or a time of innocence, a time before love and joy were terminal,” he writes in his artist’s statement. Yet revisiting that pleasure, Ogilvie notes, is where his artwork takes twists and turns, his imagery laced with concepts of beauty, affirmation, humiliation, embarrassment, horror and humor.
“Pleasure—it is the only constant to remain consistent all one’s life,” he writes. “Constant in that one yearns for it with every breath, and inconsistent in that not every breath fulfills it.” Summing up his artistic intention, he concludes: “The essence of my work/my comics is to examine the moments of when this pleasure peaks, when it recedes and how I can better understand the memory related to, and the significance of, the disparity between.”
Post Rural and End of the Rainbow? Disparity indeed.
End of the Rainbow
8 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Mon-Fri, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat, through Sept. 20, CSN Artspace Gallery, free, 651-4146,CSN.Edu/ArtGallery.
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon-Fri, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat, through Sept. 27, CSN Fine Arts Gallery, free, 651-4146,CSN.Edu/ArtGallery.