It’s noon on a Saturday at Siegfried & Roy Park (5590 Wilbur St.), and Las Vegas artist Wayne Littlejohn walks the landscaped pathway that circles inward to his 26-foot public sculpture, an organic form made of cast aluminum that spirals upward.
Abstract, sensual and otherworldly, it evokes a sense of perpetual motion under its mushroomlike cap. Oceanic is a natural leap—only sea creatures float so elegantly. Mimicking natural forces, “Dream Machine” is indistinguishably Littlejohn’s, a much larger take on his studio works, which are high-gloss sculptures made of plastics and forms that are exquisitely bizarre. “Dream Machine” is playful, streamlined and free-spirited. Shiny, UV-resistant auto paint (Oriental Blue Candy) coats the waves of the polished aluminum illuminated by the sun.
“It changes moods throughout the day with the sun moving across the sky,” Littlejohn says, while walking the gravel footpath. The polished aluminum gives off a silver luster, referencing the Silver State.
A Winnipeg, Manitoba-born artist, who landed in Las Vegas in the ’90s to study with Dave Hickey in UNLV’s Masters of Fine Arts program, Littlejohn was selected from 33 artists to create work for the park that broke ground in 2014, the final project in Clark County Department of Aviation’s Terminal 3 Expansion at McCarran International Airport. Tying in ideas of Las Vegas, magic and aviation, Littlejohn spent two years working on the piece funded by the county’s Percent for Arts Program that will be dedicated in December.
The target shape of the landscape, mimicking concentric rings rippling outward, was Littlejohn’s idea. The circular approach directs visitors to the sculpture’s changing faces and creates a visual map from the sky, he says. With the Strip facades visible in the near distance, “Dream Machine” works here. It’s an unstoppable, well-engineered force—Littlejohn’s creation of floating mass dips into his oeuvre that’s based mostly on inspiration found while traveling, particularly the illusory feeling of Japanese gardens.
With all of his work, he says, “It’s got to be something I’ve never seen before.” His studio works are about materials and seamlessness. “Dream Machine,” a sculpture of 230 cast parts connected to a metal skeleton, shows its industrial marks under the polished finish and plays on a completely different sense of scale. The large-scale sculpture, he hopes, will be the first in a series.
“It had to be distinctly Vegas, but not like anything else in Vegas,” he says, later adding, “I kind of think of it as an upside down Venus on a half shell.”