Life and death are nailed to the wall in the form of potatoes. A tinny recording of Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” plays from a red stereo on a sandy floor while a video collage with a caterpillar cocooning loops continuously on a TV in the corner. As with the potatoes (which sprout buds in death) the caterpillar is metaphor. Life and death here in this room are presented as indistinctive.
Like the other exhibits at the Town Lodge Motel—recently washed in a fresh coat of white paint—the installation by Yasmina Chavez (who works for Greenspun Media Group) at Life Is Beautiful’s Odyssey has a lot of foot traffic, a crazy amount of foot traffic given the usual reception for art here in town.
There was no doubt that the two-day festival would give artists a different platform here. But whether anyone would depart from the event’s stages and food tents to wind through the tiny rooms of the Town Lodge was a crapshoot. But they came, they observed, discussed, adored, contemplated, giggled at and wondered about the various styles, mediums and approaches to art—a mashup of established artists, UNLV and CCSD students, and even a lone tapestry by art icon Chuck Close mounted at an angle to the second floor balcony.
“The curiosity and inquisitiveness that I saw was overwhelming,” says Patrick Duffy, the Odyssey’s organizer. “Sure, it was a 48-hour nirvana, 48 hours of the pink cloud system, but survey says: they like what they saw and what they experienced.”
Even more surprising is that artists were selling works and making contacts with collectors whose names they’d only heard of, resolving some of the usual disconnect between art collectors and Downtown galleries.
Designed as a general-audience art experience encompassing broad definitions of art (a sort of contemporary art 101 crash course), the Odyssey delivered a sampling of the abstract, representational, esoteric, conceptual, text-based, sculptural, painterly and digital form—from Catherine Borg’s video depicting the reveling amid the otherwise bittersweet Stardust implosion, to Matthew Couper’s Spanish-colonial-style paintings denoting contemporary socio-political issues, to Jo Russ’ desire-based collage work and linking-arms wall piece, to Mark Brandvik’s rocket diorama built into a closet (the only work (glowing) in an otherwise dark room) to new paintings by William T. Wiley
And while Patricia Burns’ reconfiguration of a hotel room literally shows the room’s “guts” through a sort of constructed maelstrom, VAST Space Projects turns the Town Lodge Motel’s hotel lobby into a facsimile of its past self by using the motel (vacated transient housing) as source material, collecting what had been left behind when its residents were abruptly evicted—furniture, décor and the like. Amid the reconstructed interior were framed images of items, residue and scuffs found throughout the building—excellent, and sometimes poetic, photographs serving as a ghostly reminder of the lives once here and a fleeting sense of home and identity in a town redoing itself.