[Life Is Beautiful 2014]

Life is art inside the Western Hotel at LIB

A sculpture by Miguel Rodriguez at the Western Hotel in downtown Las Vegas for Life is Beautiful from Oct. 24-26, 2014.
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

The art corridors inside the Western Hotel hit visitors with a multi-sensory wallop, the kind of one-two audio/visual punch taking over the streets outside. There’s so much art to absorb, so many selfies to take, so many shiny things calling for attention that it becomes an interconnected, head-spinning onslaught of ideas, messages, narratives and experiences.

But visitors are soaking it up. Big things are happening—deep, frivolous, interactive, melancholy and real-time things. There’s the oohing and aahing and the mental note-taking of the sort found in a state fair exhibition hall, mixed with the zeal and accessibility of a carnival fun house.

This is life multifaceted, a three-day pop-up art space curated by Patrick Duffy, featuring works from some 50 artists, each completing the phrase (directly or indirectly), “Life is …”

2014 Life Is Beautiful: Western Hotel Art Tales

Yesterday, today & tomorrow: Life is captured deep inside the Western, where Bryan McCormick’s Polaroid Spectra cameras, set on remote control, snap images of the crowd in half-hour intervals. Whatever’s happening in front of three cameras mounted at different heights of a wooden structure becomes part of the narrative that unfolds, as McCormick adheres the images in order onto the wall. Capturing the same environment from different angles (and split-second intervals), the collected moments are a documentary/real-time art-making experience by the Las Vegas photographer, using 1985 cameras to practice a 21st-century reality.

Your words in color: In a former Western Hotel office, Jim Briare digitally paints works created using other people’s tweets, manipulating an algorithm-built grid of color and form. “We live in a world of multiverses,” says the artist behind his computer in the darkened room, lit only by projected images. “We have this reality that’s called the Twitterverse, but how does an artist paint in the Twitterverse?” Using fragments taken from one “universe” and applied to another, Briare creates visually rendered abstract works built from Life Is Beautiful tweets in Life Is Color Conversation.

Perception: In a peculiarly chapel-like space behind the colored windows of the Western’s front façade, Audrey Barcio investigates infinity through illusion and perspective. Double triangle mirrors hanging on opposite walls create a sense of infinite reflection. Add a selfie-ist to the room, who sends the image into the infinity of cyberspace, and suddenly it’s meta: eternal sent into the eternal. Objects, some altered and repurposed, placed within the small white space, add to a dreamlike sense of time and place.

Prayer: That Dylan Mortimer’s “Prayer Booth” is a stone’s throw away from Barcio’s “Life Is Infinite” (as part of the Trifecta Gallery showcase), is serendipitous. The phone booth-turned-prayer kneeler (created to explore public and private worship) also represents energy rippling infinitely into the universe. Moreover, it sits before an altar-like display of Aaron Sheppard’s heavily gilded installation, the erotically charged “Salmacian Looking-Glass,” a Classical-esque presentation of life’s chaos in objects and figurative nude paintings.

Digital: Mind-blowing would be an understatement here in Vast Space Projects’ digital room, where 13 artists are featured, including David Sanchez Burr, who considers 21st-century urban renewal through the communication of a building. Video incorporating sound and abstracted sculpture creates an intense realness, allowing for the experiencing of life from the perspective of an empty building surrounded by overwhelming light (natural and man-made). Brian Henry whites out man-made elements in video footage of Nevada’s natural landscapes. The ghostly impressions of objects cleanly whisked away—windsock, fences, power lines and even an airplane moving across the sky—highlight a lingering unseen presence, there and not there.

Matthew Couper's installation at the Western Hotel in downtown Las Vegas for Life is Beautiful from Oct. 24-26, 2014.

Memory and trace: Justin Favela and Jesse Carson Smigel go old-school Vegas with their collaborative surf and turf—giant lobster and dish of butter on one side, steak and eggs on the other. The large-scale specials on flip-sides of a giant plate (strung from the ceiling) bring to mind a gaming chip mid-toss, while Mike Vegas Dommermuth’s minimalist 30-foot “Payday” sculpture, created from memories of Vegas, is indiscernibly old and new. Dressed as Nosferatu, Matthew Couper resurrects Las Vegas’ past in oil paintings, as Linda Alterwitz brings her photography and medical imagery works into a three-dimensional experience—ghostlike traces of our bodies in the solid landscape.

Photo of Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson

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