Churchill Arts Council Adds Permanent Collection to Website by Michon Mackedon -- Did you know that you can virtually view the permanent collection of art objects housed in the Oats Park Art Center? It’s like scrolling through an art appreciation course online. And, it’s free. In 2018, Valerie Serpa, Director of the Churchill Arts Council, received a grant from the Nevada Tourism Commission to document the Council’s permanent art holdings and add the resulting information to their website. To date, 136 images have been uploaded and are only a few clicks away. According to Serpa, at least as many remain to be documented. The website has attracted the attention of art lovers and tourists from near and far. Serpa told me that a group of women from Paris recently made a side trip to Fallon to visit the Art Center because they wanted to experience the real objects (even though the virtual views were enough to inspire a visit to Fallon). The actual pieces are thoughtfully displayed throughout the Center, in galleries, hallways, bars, meeting rooms, all the nooks and crannies of the old Oats Park School. Two large galleries, the Classroom Gallery and the Kirk Robertson Gallery are dedicated to featured artists, whose displays and installations are changed out every few months. The Paris group reacted to the beautiful and sophisticated Center in ways now familiar to Serpa. “Visitors are stunned by Oats Park. They expect a place defined by folding chairs on a gym floor and, instead, they find spaces and objects that rival what they have seen in famous and worldly galleries.” As the visitors discovered, the online site is a repository of information about each image. Name of the object. Artist. Date of creation. Medium (oil, acrylic, clay, mixed media, photography, fabric, metal, etc.). Donor of the piece. But it offers much more than data. It offers an opportunity to study at leisure a thumbnail rendition of the original piece, to examine the creative work on your own terms. Colorful abstract paintings coexist with stark black and white photographs and complex three- dimensional sculptures. Still life paintings and photography are represented as are kinetic moments and movements captured in paint, clay or photography. The collection includes numerous representations of Nevada landscapes, some may be familiar to Nevadans, some may not. For example, “Slow Morning” is an oil painting by Ron Artaud-- a naturalistic winterscape set in Tuscarora, Nevada. The blues of the mountain range in the background are complemented by the yellow reflection of native desert sage on greyish snow. A signpost rising from the snow reads, “Speed Limit 15.” It’s a rural Nevada scene. Lee Brumbaugh’s photograph, “Cemetery, Tonopah,” is both familiar and strange. It has been digitally pigmented so that the cemetery ground and the sky are a surreal blue broken by stretches of khaki. In the foreground stands a forlorn wooden tombstone, colored black with an exposed side of surreal red. To the right stands a smaller tombstone splashed with the same unearthly blue. Rising In the background are five, perhaps six more tombstones … creepy and scraggly singularities in a ghostly apocalyptic graveyard. The effect is unsettling. Many photographs are quite realistic and highlight scenes closer to home. “Fallon Pogonip,” “Dago Road, Silver City, Nevada,”” Fort Churchill.” Of local interest is a clouded view of the Churchill County Courthouse, shot with a pinhole camera made from a can of corn. At least seven Nevada scenes are slashed by empty paved highways or tire tracks in mud or sand, as if to say, “This is the real Nevada.” Two of my favorite pieces were created by well-known artists with Fallon roots. John Mason’s “Desert Cross” is a must-see. Mason, who recently died, was raised in Hazen, graduated from Churchill County High School, and went on to transform the genre of clay sculpture on a national level. His pieces are collected by major museums, including the Smithsonian. Joan Arrizabalaga’s “The Only Game in Town,” is also a must see. It grows in power as you view it. Arrizabalaga was raised in Fallon and became a gaming art pioneer when she started making elaborate clay and fabric slot machines in the 1960’s. “The Only Game in Town” is her ironic fabric and mixed media take on a craps game. It’s a very large piece, 78 x 123 inches. The craps players, numbering twelve, are the kings, queens and jacks familiar to you from a deck of cards. They face the central figure, a croupier, gathered like participants in DaVinci’s “The Last Supper.” At least four other pieces in the collection would be at home in renowned galleries and museums. An oil on canvas, with the long and evocative title, “Many and Many a Day She Must Have Sat There, Just Thinking” (1914, gift of Margo Piscevich) bears the signature of W.H.D. Koerner. Koerner is an important figure in the history of American Illustration. His painting “Leading the Charge” hung in the oval office of George W. Bush. And, the Churchill Arts Council owns three powerful paintings by Theodore Waddell, one of the American West’s most celebrated contemporary artists, famous for landscapes populated with Black Angus cattle, horses, sheep and bison. Whether the collection is visited online or firsthand, a common question posed to Serpa expresses the viewer’s surprise at the extent of the collection and its discerning curation. The question is, “Why Fallon.” To which, Serpa questions back, “Why not Fallon?” Sign up to receive updates and the Friday File email notices. 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Arts Council has a Virtual Gallery
- 2020-03-16, 08:50 AM