Basing an entire exhibit on an already oft-photographed statue can run the risk of saturation, not only within the show, but also within the camera-ready community that has captured the iconic subject for decades. Yet in Falling Angel at Trifecta Gallery, Las Vegas photographers Bryan McCormick and Geoffrey Ellis present a new, intimate look at Blue Angel, which for six decades has stood atop the shuttered motel of the same name—showing in detail the wear and tear and painted-on glamour of a beloved beauty from another era.
Shooting from the ground, balconies, a rooftop and the motel next door, the photographers captured the normally unseen details—layers of chipped paint, parts of remaining metal eyelashes and a surprising underbite.
The exhibit includes fragments (close-up images of her lips, eyes and hands), sequential shots of her winged body rotating in the wind and glamour-style portraits of her shockingly milk-white face and painted red lips. The compositions perfectly tell her story.
Her blue, floor-length evening dress clings to her curvy body, and her foot is forward as if she’s walking in the sky. She smiles, wand in hand, at the neighborhood below. Her misty eyes are as blue as her dress, and her gold hair billows down while she stands atop the motel at Fremont and Eastern. In her tarnished beauty lives the romanticized drama of a Hollywood-esque figure hovering over an abandoned amusement park, a relic from another time, another season.
Photographing Blue Angel began as part of the Vegas Vernacular project of documenting signs before they disappear, but McCormick says that he and Ellis found themselves lured back to her multiple times, resulting in a bounty of images. “Nothing else has brought us back the way this has,” he explains, citing the tension between the compelling and beautiful, demonic and haggard. “People saw her as a quasi-religious figure and regard her as the patron saint of Las Vegas. There’s power in the way the community has imbued her with that.”
Through these images, including text-based works, Falling Angel delivers that story.
Falling Angel July 4-26; Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday,11 a.m.-3 p.m. Trifecta Gallery, 366-7001. Opening reception July 4, 6-8 p.m.