Las Vegas artists take on Route 66 at Springs Preserve exhibit

Piñata party: Justin Favela’s ’64 Chevy Impala highlights Next Exit: Route 66.
Photo: Steve Marcus

By the late 1930s, Route 66 was paved and ready for the onslaught of auto America, as families set out across the country. Up went the motels, restaurants and themed attractions, luring road-weary tourists in need of rest at the foot of a giant concrete dinosaur. Collective memories took shape among the generations, until the super highways wiped out the roadside era, leaving behind a few relics and a deep sense of nostalgia.

Next Exit: Route 66 at the Springs Preserve features artists’ interpretations of the celebrated highway. It’s a collaborative effort that unites personal memories and iconic images via sculpture, painting and photography—and an outstanding roster of artists living in Las Vegas: Su Limbert, Todd Duane Miller, Andreana Donahue, Justin Favela and JW Caldwell.

In size and color, Favela’s 1964 low-rider piñata Impala dominates the Big Springs Gallery in the Origen building. Created from cardboard, lime-green tissue paper and Mylar, the life-size model includes necessary details down to the fenders and brake lights. It pops out against Caldwell’s desert landscape mural, covering the length of the gallery with striking mom-and-pop-style billboards—bold white font on black—featuring the road-trip phrases, “Wow! Look at that!” “Are we there yet?” and “I have to pee.”

Route 66 Art Exhibit at Springs Preserve

Limbert’s illustrative wildlife paintings on wood cutouts (including a fabled jackalope) incorporate flora and camping imagery. Donahue’s immaculately crafted highway call box (cardboard) and large rocks (sculpted from papier mâché and solid paper) complete the installation feel.

Piecing it all together, literally, is Miller’s hand-painted acrylic transfer of a photograph on salvaged material, which he gathered on Route 66. It’s an image of a woman smiling before the concrete dinosaur in Cabazon, California, applied to layered and neatly compiled found material: old paneling, a copper license plate, part of a refrigerator door and even a piece of an old car hood. Its vintage feel pulls you in; its fragmented components, Miller says, represent individual memories.

Springs Preserve assistant curator, Jessica Hougen, was inspired to put the show together after learning of Favela's desire to create a full-sized piñata car and said she selected artists whose media and styles would be complimentary.

A girl riding a harnessed jackalope against a desert backdrop with an endless blue sky, a giant dinosaur and a ’64 low-rider. It’s all on the Mother Road.

Next Exit: Route 66 June 28-September 15; Daily; 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Included with $5-$19 GA ticket. Springs Preserve's Big Springs Gallery, 822-7700.

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