Erin Stellmon is known to explore Las Vegas’ transformative nature in her work. Her new exhibit, Reign of Glass, on display at the Contemporary Arts Center, is transformation unhinged — Las Vegas going for broke without end, spiraling out of control with Stellmon asking, “Where do we go from here?”
The artist melds our dizzying past, present and future — offering a momentary pause from our frenzied architectural landscape — in two- and three-dimensional works made from craft material used to make more approachable the “grandiose idea of architecture, economy and housing” in our complex, 21st century city.
At its core is CityCenter, the idea of CityCenter (a city within a city, erected during Las Vegas’ foreclosure nightmare) and how that idea relates to a traditional sense of community. Its rendition sits in a timeline of various incarnations of hotels that lived on that property over the decades. Its future is portrayed in gold sheets of glass flying off the steel skeleton heralding its eventual demise. Fragile and flimsy materials represent construction problems and future instability. Nothing lasts here. Nearby are nearly 100 artist drawings portraying their memories and experiences of Las Vegas as a home, a community and a tourist destination.
Stellmon’s “Reign,” a stunning photographic collage on black plastic, represents Vegas as an “organic being,” neon roots dangling from its body. “Cirrus,” in which advertising, having exhausted every inch of the Strip, went skyward onto clouds to reach planeloads of arriving tourists, shows the static of contemporary LCD signs, which, unlike sculpted neon signs, “leave no real artifact, no ruins.” “Tumbleweed,” a meteoric-looking cluster of melded rubble and cinderblocks, hangs near “Empire,” a sculpted, sci-fi-esque architectural model of the CityCenter Stellmon says she would have preferred to the structures we have. Her model of CityCenter is crystalline, jagged and jutting upward, vertically and vibrantly striped, magical, akin to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, “a mix between futuristic and fantastical,” she says.