David Sanchez Burr: Talking with the artist about urban, nature and what each has to do with the other
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Seeking to bridge the gap between our urban existence and local landscapes, artist David Sanchez Burr invites urbanites out to Mt. Charleston to experience the creative side of nature. After accepting the position of Art Education Coordinator with the Spring Mountain National Recreational Area about a month ago, Sanchez Burr immediately began an ambitious new creative program called Wildlife Divide.
Tell us a little about the goals and focus of Wildlife Divide …
Wildlife Divide is about juxtaposing people’s urban environments and their natural environment. The idea is to think about the two environments together. People go the mountains to escape, but this [program] is so they can go there to think, to be aware of this transition.
A typical project you might see in a recreational center like Spring Mountain is watercolors: [they’re] simple, transportable … I’m trying to create a program that addresses people’s lives, that’s a closer representation. People always have technology with them. With a cell phone you have a camera, sound recording, video editing; why not use what we have?
What inspired you to start a program like this?
I’ve always been interested in the periphery of Las Vegas. Everything that is going on on the Strip is so amplified it sets the tone for the entire town. As an artist it’s nice to get outside the city and diffuse some of that noise.
Many of the scheduled art activities involve the participants taking something from their daily routines — an object, a video clip — and bringing it into the natural environment. What is the creative objective with that?
Viewing something in a natural setting that doesn’t belong there really gets you thinking — like a toy mechanical dog on a mountain trail. Why is it there? How did it get there? It starts a narrative, and you don’t have to be a trained artist to ask these questions.
What personal art projects are you working on? Any exhibits coming up?
Doing a show at the [Clark County] Government Center, Beyond Sunrise Mountain, that I’ve been working on since I got here. It’s seven years of investigative projects and research done in the area beyond Sunrise Mountain. … The projects range from sound art to kinetic sculpture to video, inspired by the geology, the history and traces left by human intervention. I’m also working on a series of sculptural work that transforms itself through sound and interactivity for Beautiful Fields Memphis Social [in Tennessee]. My work has to do with the expansion of definitions of time. … We could be expanding our understanding of things simply noticing in detail what happens around us.
Your art very much echoes the sensibilities of the Wildlife Divide project. Where do you see the Las Vegas art scene going, or where would you like to see it go?
(Laughs) That’s way too political for me. I think people will engage more in the art scene as they settle in and become more committed to the city. I don’t want to say what I would do because it would just piss people off. I just do stuff. I’m filling spaces and doing things that interest me.