Patrick Duffy has a clear vision for The Odyssey.
This vision features a bouffant, a 1963 Buick Wildcat convertible and a warm day in Las Vegas.
“We’re rumbling down toward the entrance of the Town Lodge on our first trip to Vegas. I’ve got my shades on. I don’t have the bouffant. I’m driving. But the gal in the passenger’s seat, she has a bouffant,” says Duffy, one of the city’s renowned art collectors, philanthropists and salesmen of all things artistic. “We hang a big turn on 7th Street and park at the motel. That’s how I envision this, transporting this funky 1950s-’60s motel into this funky 2013 art house.”
Duffy is the curator of The Odyssey: A Visual Art Experience for the Life Is Beautiful festival this Saturday and Sunday in Downtown Las Vegas. The Odyssey should not be difficult to locate—it’s right there inside the 21 rooms of Town Lodge on 7th and Stewart Streets. You’ll note the new, 60-foot water installation created by Eric Tillinghast. If it reminds you of a familiar Vegas attraction, that’s by design.
“It’s made to look like the Bellagio fountains,” Duffy says. “It’s a very important outdoor water installation, right in the middle of the courtyard.”
Duffy is collecting artists of varying ilk for The Odyssey, taking over the old, two-story motel. He’s equally excited about 10-year-old Jonah Jakin Schoenmann (he specializes in acrylic-based paintings, and also happens to be the son of LV Sun columnist Joe Schoenmann) and multifaceted Bay Area artist William T. Wiley.
“I gotta tell you something, this Jonah has an incredible capture of color and composition. He just blows my freakin’ mind,” Duffy says. “And you don’t get any more well-represented than Wiley, who had a Smithsonian retrospective three years ago.” The 75-year-old Wiley’s fields of expertise include drawing, painting, sculpture, film, and even performance art.
Duffy says his concept is to create a “journey of art” by displaying the works of artists ranging from those attending Las Vegas Academy and UNLV to early- and mid-career artists and accomplished gallerists.
“I’m very interested in the sensitivity of bringing this in and creating a cross-pollination of the youngest artists talking to the oldest,” says Duffy, who is also president of the Las Vegas Art Museum’s Board of Directors. “It’s a mini-art fair, and that’s how artists will get to their next stage. I am interested in making certain that artists’ reputations will be pristinely handled, regardless of where they are in their development.”
One of the more distinctive pieces is also the easiest to identify: Painter and photorealist Chuck Close has contributed a giant tapestry, a self-portrait that has been displayed in St. Petersburg, Russia, Madrid and London. This is to hang above the entire courtyard.
“This is the piece de resistance,” Duffy says. “It’s a $200,000 piece and is over-the-top, just like one of his paintings.”
Duffy also says, “We have a good smattering for people to see. Neon, to works on paper, sculpture, photography, all of it implemented in a way that is smart.”
Though Duffy expresses his characteristic passion for The Odyssey, he was not interested in taking on the assignment when he was approached by LIB officials over the summer.
“I was asked and declined immediately,” he says. “But after further conversation, I thought if I declined, they would hire someone outside of Las Vegas, and that ain’t gonna work. No one outside of Las Vegas knows the important Las Vegas artists to create what is needed at Life is Beautiful.”
So Duffy asked a pertinent question.
“Is this a non-profit venture, or is it for profit?” he recalls. “Oh, it’s for profit? Here’s my fee! Let’s face it, if you keep working for free, you won’t gain respect in your field, no matter who you are. So I gave them the bill and split it up between two charities.”
Duffy does not anticipate taking on the curator duties for LIB next year—he praises the installation acumen of Vast Space Projects proprietor Shannon McMackin—but is not yet willing to dismiss the concept entirely.
“I hope I’m not doing it,” Duffy says, laughing. “I was just asked about this yesterday and I said, ‘(Heck) no! Why should it be me?’ I say that now, but who knows what’ll happen?” As they say, he’ll cross that bridge—probably in an old Buick convertible—when he gets to it.