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TURNING A GATEWAY TO ART

<p>Jessica Penrod and Rosalind Brooks from the Great Basin Permaculture and Vegas Roots Community Garden focused on Vegas' past and future at the Gateway Motel.</p>

Jessica Penrod and Rosalind Brooks from the Great Basin Permaculture and Vegas Roots Community Garden focused on Vegas' past and future at the Gateway Motel.

<p><em>CityLife</em> columnist Hektor D. Esparza works with the local nonprofit PUSH Forward; the skating-oriented advocacy group presented art from local youth involved in the program.</p>

CityLife columnist Hektor D. Esparza works with the local nonprofit PUSH Forward; the skating-oriented advocacy group presented art from local youth involved in the program.

<p>Ginger Bruner and Kathleen Nathan presented photography from their B & N Photography Studio and online effort, The Daily Frame.</p>

Ginger Bruner and Kathleen Nathan presented photography from their B & N Photography Studio and online effort, The Daily Frame.

<p>Crowds braved the cold to see local artists at the Greetings from Las Vegas, an eco-themed art show at the Gateway Motel, Dec. 5 . First, they had to sign up.</p>

Crowds braved the cold to see local artists at the Greetings from Las Vegas, an eco-themed art show at the Gateway Motel, Dec. 5 . First, they had to sign up.

Greetings From Las Vegas was a one-night-only multi-media, multi-artist event at the Gateway Motel on Dec. 5 where more than 30 artists filled 20 motel rooms with artistic, or informative, installations related to the theme of “sustainability in Las Vegas.”

Hundreds of people braved the cold weather to come see what it was all about, and it was such a great experience that it inspired me to conjure up a bunch of silly categories and pretend to give away awards …

Best Use of Living Plants: This prize goes to David Sánchez Burr and his cohorts Yasmina Chavez and Javier Sánchez from Multiplexer, whose multimedia room was carpeted with living grass and water jugs filled with tiny plastic babies. It was like some nightmare cloning center in Antarctica.

Meanwhile, host/artist Burr passed out pickled herring and Scandinavian Aquavit while expounding upon the way capitalist culture blurs the distinctive origins, pedigree, ethnicity and authenticity of the products we buy.

Best Use of Cardboard: This prize was won handily by Joel Spencer, whose room was plastered, from floor to ceiling, with various remnants of that most renowned of all recyclable materials: brown cardboard. The moist smell of it greeted you right at the threshold, so redolent of train tracks, airplane hangars, boats, automobiles and everything else related to shipping and receiving. Whimsical little details, like cardboard flowers on the wall, brought delight to every environmentally-aware inner child.

Best Nude: Mother Nature is all about being nude. But you can still slap some lipstick, high heels, eyeliner and rouge on her sometimes. Maybe even put a pink bow in her hair along with some Mickey Mouse ears. Looking a bit like sketches made by Egon Schiele while high on pixie dust (and that’s not a bad thing), Cristina Natsuko Paulos’ paintings of naked nymphettes walked off with this prize hands down (and posteriors elevated). In Mother Nature’s eyes, we are all nude. Some nudes are just easier on the eye than others.

Best Attention to Detail: Hektor D. Esparza and Push Forward’s recreation of a young skateboarder’s life at home left no nook unturned or cranny undecorated. The wire-mesh dummy in skater clothing worked perfectly within this realistic environment, whether it was at the kitchen table reading a comic book, relaxing on the bed, or sitting on the crapper. The walls, tables, and bookshelves were covered with reams of interesting and esoteric items. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw a book by G.I. Gurdjieff. (Editor’s note: Esparza is a freelance columnist for CityLife, but that was not known by this freelance writer.)

Best Use of Recycled Plastic: Jennifer Henry’s room featured two live female models lounging around in a small sea of repurposed plastic material crinkled up to resemble pom-poms or giant sea urchins. The whole scene looked to me like a cross between a Federico Fellini film and a dressing room at Jubilee. Many of the exhibits at this event could be viewed from outside the actual room, through the window. Jennifer capitalized on this distancing technique by blocking off the main doorway with a clear plastic sheet.

Greetings From Las Vegas appeared to be a huge success, thanks in no small measure to Michael Litt, Green Jelly, and the managers of the Gateway Motel, which is located on the corner of Las Vegas and Charleston boulevards. As someone who grew up with art, it doesn’t always matter to me who really fronts the money or does the organizing for these events, just so long as they happen. One great way to strengthen the image of Downtown Las Vegas would be to host more community-driven interactions like this.

Almost anyone can have fun helping with a one-time event, and artistic collaborations of this type really do bring people together in all the right ways and with all the best of intentions.

In 1994 an artist named Pepón Osorio installed a temporary exhibit in my home county. It was a critique on Latin machismo that transformed a rundown barbershop into an amazing multi-media experience.

He chose to make it happen in one of the poorest neighborhoods around and he offered free haircuts to local children out front. When I remember this neighborhood, I don’t automatically think of shootings, gang activity, drug addiction or poverty any more. I think about an art exhibit.

Every county in every state has its own unique culture, and sometimes it takes a handful of environmentalists shoving a bunch of artists into a lot of motel rooms to help remind me of that.

Oh, and there’s also one final award:

Best Evasion of Thematic Restraints: This most important honor of all is bestowed upon Brian Henry.

His doorway-sized wall of LED light, with its rising and falling lines and roving colors, really had nothing at all to do with “sustainability in Las Vegas” as far as I could tell. You might say LED light saves on electricity, but I’m pretty sure that’s just coincidental. Or is it?

Brian Henry programs light-emitting surfaces with computer technology in order to generate random patterns of movement, shape and color that never repeat themselves, ever.

Like a cross pollination between John Cage and James Turrell, this artist stands poised to bypass any imposed narrative structure whatsoever. So don’t forget to include him in the next themed event, no matter what that theme turns out to be. CL