Where did artist Shawn Hummel go to find inspiration for the cover, “The Conductor vs. The Pioneer,” of Vegas Seven’s real estate issue?
He stepped outside his front door.
“I’m influenced every day by my neighborhood, how people are taking funky old houses and fixing them up,” says Hummel, a resident of John S. Park Historic District, a neighborhood of Colonial Revival, ranch and Tudor-style homes from the 1930s and 50s.
“I like how Vegas is always changing, and I like the history,” he says. “There are always cool things happening [here].”
Hummel has seen a lot of change since moving from San Diego in 1998 to pursue a Master of Fine Arts at UNLV. He arrived during the tenure of renowned art critic Dave Hickey, and says his college experience (he graduated in 2001) changed the way he approached art.
“I started looking at the world and thinking about [art] much differently after that,” Hummel recalls. “My work became more abstract and less figurative.”
Hummel furthered his art education with stints at San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art and later at the Guggenheim Heritage Museum in The Venetian.
After the latter closed in 2008, he pursued a freelance career before opening AboveBoard Art Installation, an art-handling company that works with private and public collections.=
While it’s not his “day job,” Hummel’s art—which has evolved from photography to color-field painting to hand drawings—allows him to “balance the scale after the daily hustle.”
“I’ve been an artist for a long time, and I find that I’m happier when I have a creative outlet,” he says.
For the cover, Hummel walked around Downtown snapping photographs of the famed Morelli House at Bridger Avenue and Ninth Street, as well as the nearby bungalows The Pioneer, at Bridger and 10th Street.
Using those pictures he went to work drawing by hand.
“I try to juxtapose one building against another,” Hummel says. “I like my work, especially these drawings, to be pretty abstract, so sometimes people key into specific icons and sometimes it’s more ambiguous.
“By taking things that I find interesting and layering them, it’s my way of making an abstract composition out of nonabstract influences.”
In addition to Vegas Seven, Hummel’s work can currently be seen in Tilting the Basin, an exhibition running through May 14 at the Nevada Museum of Art.
His contributions to the show include drawings that incorporate buildings and signage from Northern and Southern Nevada—“Modernist desert icons,” he explains.
“When I start a drawing, it’s pretty spontaneous. I like that it can change direction and turn out completely different by the time it’s finished.”