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‘Post Rural’: contemporary life in America’s Western rural landscape

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Edgar Smith’s wall installation “Opportunity to Milltown, Milltown to Opportunity.”
Photo: Kristen Peterson

In Post Rural at the College of Southern Nevada, artists consider the ever-changing rural Western landscape now altered by the suburbs and industries that mark once-idyllic and romanticized areas. As “permanent visitors” who moved to an area from elsewhere, their contemplation of identity and place comes at a time of mobility that has transplants and new businesses moving into rural areas and those long attached to the land moving out.

Katrina Hean's "Swarm I"

Sentiments and observations play out in sculpture, drawing, painting and photography, with some works using materials and processes directly relating to the subject. Brad Allen’s “Bread and Butter” was made using poplar, plastic and a stool from an abandoned factory, and Edgar Smith’s wall installation “Opportunity to Milltown, Milltown to Opportunity” incorporates house paint, slag and bark. In James Bailey’s “Butte-iful,” the artist renders into linoleum images from two Montana landmarks—both Superfund cleanup sites marketed to tourists.

It’s a visually and conceptually interesting exhibit that has Kevin Bell’s paintings, “Dumpsters” and “Motel,” depicting landscapes—now appreciated, he says, from the distance of roadsides and parking lots—with a deflated aesthetic from the injection of human constructions. Matt Hamon’s sculptural works are made from plein air paintings on wood, sliced into kindling-sized planks, creating a landscape reconstructed (or as the artist says, “re-presented”).

Completing the narrative of the memories, mythologies, realities and conflicting ideas of the shifting landscapes are Nicole Pietrantoni’s digital prints/mixed-media works, Noah Wilson’s archival pigment prints, Karina Noel Hean’s works on paper (watercolor, acrylic and graphite) and Trey Hill’s ceramic and glaze sculptures.

Trey Hill's "Divide"

Trey Hill's "Divide"

Though the artists live and teach in Montana and other states, the themes of their work resonate strongly in Las Vegas, where a high percentage of “permanent visitors” remain connected to other cities and sprawl has erased the Mojave, creating a disconnect with the desert that now seems more a distant and visible backdrop, rather than an immediate experience.

For more on the artists and the collective, go to post-rural.com.

Post Rural Through September 27. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. CSN Fine Arts Gallery, 651-4146. Artist reception September 27, 6-8 p.m.

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Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson joined the Las Vegas Sun in 1998 as a general assignment reporter. In 2003, she turned her focus ...

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