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Artist David Sanchez Burr finds inspiration in Sunrise Mountain

Her movements are smooth, arms arching in sweeping arabesques, then dropping to gather her ruffled black skirt, revealing red velvet shoes vigorously stamping out a Spanish rhythm. A microphone aimed at the flamenco dancer’s feet relays the sound to speakers installed beneath brittle crystalline structures quivering slightly from the vibrations. The dance and the crystal structures are part of the performance component taking place at the opening of David Sanchez-Burr’s exhibit, Beyond Sunrise Mountain, which examines his ongoing conversation with the mountain 16 miles outside of Las Vegas.

“Going down Lake Mead [Boulevard] and up to Sunrise Mountain, the first thing that really caught my attention is there was a lot of debris on the side of the road,” says Sanchez-Burr, discussing the start of his project. “One time there was a big wooden boat that somebody had just abandoned; that really drew my attention … I choose a location because I want to see things change, and if I bring something there I want to see what happens to it while I’m gone.”

All the works in the exhibit tie into the geography of Sunrise Mountain while harnessing, in a John Cage-like manner, the natural processes of change, chance and decay. In one piece we find trailing colored string attached to a black helium-filled balloon. As the helium begins to fail, the balloon slowly lowers, yellow and red yarn plotting random paths through a topographical depiction of the Rainbow Garden hiking trail.

A trio of sailboats on wheels invokes the abandoned boat and brings in notions of impermanence and mobility within society. A boat-as-mobile-home speaks to a shift in long-term domestic investments in location, now easily replaced, lost, sold or abandoned. The artist plans for the boats to set sail, in nearby salt-flats, traveling until time and weather wears them down.

Nearby, a wooden billboard titled “Slowly Revealing Searchlights at Sunrise” is caked with red mud from the mountain, flaking off piece by piece and gradually revealing a silver under-painting applied by Sanchez-Burr prior to the mud layer.

“Once I saw this man coming through … he stood in front of it and started jumping up and down trying to make it fall,” Sanchez-Burr says with laugh. “The futility of it was pretty astounding, but I love the fact that he tried. … This thing is falling apart at the pace at which things fall apart; what this is referencing to, in a way, is patience. To have the patience to see this thing fall apart, I think that is a thing really missing from culture today.”

From the elegance of the flamenco dancer paired with rising and dying helium and wheeled boats, to the slow, curious beauty of drying clay, this is an exhibit in a state of constant flux, demonstrating the artist’s concept that life is a “performance in perpetuity.”

As the dancer’s movements come to a stand-still, Sanchez-Burr picks up an electric guitar and cranks up the bass, and the three crystal structures siting atop speaker-loaded platforms jump to life. The sculptures are constructed with pieces from the Pabco gypsum mine on Sunrise, each humorously named in tribute to an imploded casino: Frontier, Dunes and Stardust. They shiver and shimmy, delicate limbs starting to break off from the sonic vibrations. The buildings tap-dance tantalizingly close to the platform edge but, frustratingly, they refuse to fall or collapse into pieces. Was it too much glue? A stronger amp needed?

Or is it another lesson in patience?

BEYOND SUNRISE MOUNTAIN Through March 22; Clark County Government Center Rotunda Gallery