Steeped in academia: Considering Barrick Museum’s ‘Panorama’

Mary Warner’s “Zinnias” in Panorama (29” by 37”)
Dawn-Michelle Baude

Three stars

Panorama/Panorama+: Selections From the Nevada Arts Council’s Art Fellowship Program through November 26; Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, noon-5 p.m.; $5 suggested donation. Barrick Museum, 702-895-3381.

Panorama and Panorama+ at UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum sport the sweeping titles of ambitious group shows. Curator Richard Hooker selected works from 12 Panorama participants chosen by the Nevada Arts Council (NAC), and UNLV Director of Galleries Jerry Schefcik and Hooker added pieces by eight more NAC artists for Panorama+.

From Catherine Borg's "Scouted" in Panorama at the Barrick (10 1/2" by 24")

While content, medium and technique among the 63 works vary considerably, the 20 artists have all received a Nevada Arts Council Artist fellowship in the past 20 years. A majority of the artists are also the product of, currently employed by and/or affiliated with the art departments at UNLV, UNR, CSN or Truckee Meadows Community College.

The academic association is worth considering. Academia is both a boon and bane to artists’ careers. Academia helps artists survive financially through jobs and assistantships; it can be a throughline to grants, awards and, perhaps, NAC fellowships. But it also encourages art that flatlines, rests inert and does its job dutifully but without risk, distinction or brilliance, to the point that “academic” is a synonym for boring. And some of the work in the Panoramas is, indeed, boring.

But not Catherine Borg’s “Scouted.” In four standout photographic works, Borg deconstructs Las Vegas hotels as “sets” for the narrations of tourism. Working with UNLV archival prints, Borg photographed the photos that movie production teams take when scouting sets—yes, photos of photos. In the process, the hotel rooms, with their Post-it and pasteboard assemblage, slip even further from what they appear to present. It is as if the missing tourists are themselves actors in a reality TV show of a Las Vegas movie production that could never be made.

Zoltan Janvary's "Travel Notes II" in Panorama (12" by 9")

Stephen Hendee’s “North American Flag” and “‘Shut It Down’ Warning Flag” approach cultural yearning and excess from a different perspective. Hendee’s stitched-fabric wall hangings, made from camouflaged materials, function as semaphores from a dystopia we can all-too-readily imagine, a world in which our patriotism can be hacked as readily as our tech.

Futurism also seems to apply to Mary Warner’s genetically modified blooms. A flower painter who is anything but a flower painter, Warner contributes two masterful works to Panorama, both populated with the sentient floating heads of botanic beauty queens. More sci-fi than seed catalog, Warner’s flowers blossom into seductive, animistic creatures, as if they were the result of some chromosomal sleight-of-hand, in which all that is delicate, and lovely, and poetic, and beautiful, is also subject to a strange, architectonic power. In the contrast between negative and positive space, in the folds and crevices of Warner’s petals, mystery resides.

Peter Goin’s bouffant tree photos, Suzanne Kanatsiz’s blood-stippled mandala, and Tamara Scronce’s Joseph Beuys chairs, among other works, also deserve fuller mention. All in all, the Panoramas may not provide a robust spectrum of Nevada artists, but the shows do deliver some quality art.

  • An interest in fibers and column pedestals unites the artists, along with a fascination for transforming materials.

  • She has ushered in a cultural shift, focusing on the perspectives of people of color, women and LGBTQ communities.

  • The Barrick Lecture Series concluded with a few stories from the photographer who captured the Rolling Stones and Barack Obama at their peak.

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