Art | Story by Jenessa Kenway

‘Life Is’ Exhibit Impresses

This year’s Western Hotel art show answers the big questions in a big way

Western Hotel in Downtown Las Vegas

Western Hotel in Downtown Las Vegas

“An emotional wow.”

That’s the reaction Patrick Duffy was gunning for as he curated the gallery art that will be featured in the Western Hotel at Life Is Beautiful. Duffy, the president of the Las Vegas Art Museum, says the works selected for the exhibit are geared toward a dramatic emotional impact, universally accessible ideas and an ability to inject meaning back into the familiar phrase Life Is Beautiful.

New York artist Audrey Barcio contemplates “Life Is …” with an installation of infinite reflections. An arrangement of mirrors sends visitor reflections rippling into infinity, and a snapped selfie within the installation will continue the reverberation on the Internet.

The work of local artist Miguel Rodriguez comments on the challenges we face in life and the feeling of relief that comes over us after surviving a difficult ordeal. The artist compares that feeling of relief to the arrival of rain that brings an end to a long drought. Raindrops, curiously shaped like walruses, cascade down in sheets of pixelated rain.

Both JK Russ and Linda Alterwitz craft works looking to nature for solace and sanctuary. Images of nature frequently grace medical rooms, creating a window of escape for patients. Alterwitz’s installation shines light through translucent medical scans, sending diagrams flickering across large-scale photographs of desert vistas. Guests pause in Russ’ installation to reflect on nature by collaging natural elements such as cactus flowers, rocks, clouds and brief written messages onto a wall that will be, by the end of the festival, a massive collage created by festival participants.

Aaron Sheppard responds to the question “Life Is …?” with sumptuous Victorian decadence, sensual figures, gilded edges and a chaise lounge. His work urges indulgence in passion and partaking in dessert.

With the variety of artistic responses in place, the Western Hotel will offer festivalgoers contemplative moments, visual pleasures and perhaps, as Duffy hopes, visitors will leave with “something planted in the back of their memory, something to change [their] perception of ‘Life Is …’”