The once-prized landmarks and roadside attractions off the highways of the American West stand weathered and abandoned—poetic remnants of a bygone era, peculiar and mysterious on the vast desert landscape, easy prey, it would seem, for any painter in need of a subject. But in Suzanne Hackett-Morgan’s oil-on-canvas paintings, they become something more than a collective memory or visual oddity appearing peripherally to weary drivers, exuding instead a more personal relationship between the Las Vegas artist and the land she has tread.
Her works in My Painted Desert at the Sahara West Library’s the Studio (once part of the Las Vegas Art Museum) portray the giant artifacts strangely dwarfed by and blended with the dramatic sweeping western vistas, emphasizing their role in history and a sense of home within the unique lighting and long shadows of the desolate desert landscapes stretching across Arizona, Nevada and California.
In the triptych “Cabazon (I’m Changing the Environment… Ask Me How!)” the scenery continues from one canvas to another, featuring the sculpted T. rex of Cabazon, California, on one, a row of neglected palm trees on another and a crashing billboard still marked with “diesel” on the third. In “Sleep in a Teepee,” there are the large concrete teepees of the Wigwam Motels in California and Arizona. “Sloan” is a stunning, contemporary photo-realist painting of towering palm trees against a desolate backdrop, and “Here It Is” features an old billboard, announcing “Here it is” in what seems to be the middle of nowhere.
These dilapidated signs and abandoned buildings amid the hazy blue sky might have been forgotten in time, but Hackett-Morgan brings to life their defiant survival.
My Painted DesertThrough March 1; Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sahara West Library, 9600 W. Sahara Ave., 507-3630.