Fine Art

Size doesn’t matter: Small Space Fest packs a punch at Emergency Arts

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Attendees play a video game during the Small Space Fest at Emergency Arts downtown Las Vegas, Monday, June 20, 2016.
Yasmina Chavez

Miss Margarida's Margaret Thatcher-style hairdo is as rigid as her unwavering conservatism and, possibly, her girdle. She’s unbending and authoritative to the extent that you imagine her panty hose swishing in time with her gait.

But here she comes, stately and waving a small American flag, asserting above the crowd inside Emergency Arts that “anyone who loves their country should meet me in front of the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum right now.”

A burlesque performer performs a tap dance routine during the Small Space Fest at Emergency Arts downtown Las Vegas, Monday, June 20, 2016.

A burlesque performer performs a tap dance routine during the Small Space Fest at Emergency Arts downtown Las Vegas, Monday, June 20, 2016.

If the Small Space Fest hadn't already kicked into full gear on this Monday night, it has now. The line assembling behind her is nearly bumping into itself before she leads them off into the event’s exhibits and performances. Crowds roam in and out of the gallery spaces, some eating the bread and spread that artist Brent Holmes serves in concert with their answers to his philosophical questions.

Upstairs, artist and Rhizome Gallery co-owner Chad Scott is watching his sod break down and form paths as visitors walk the wall-to-wall lawn in the small room; smelling the sod squares cut from the floor, framed and hung on the wall; and gazing peculiarly at the patch of grass on the white plinth receiving water from an IV.

Community revitalization in the gallery’s temporary landscape is taking hold as he'd planned. “As people are admiring the piece, they’re also contributing to its destruction,” he says. “Over time the grass is going to be deteriorated.”

The message here is that our relationship with the environment is compromised when we interact with it: “In the process of appreciation we end up destroying the piece.”

Sculptural installation "Puss in Boots" by artist Elizabeth Folk fills one of the small rooms during the Small Space Fest at Emergency Arts downtown Las Vegas, Monday, June 20, 2016.

Sculptural installation "Puss in Boots" by artist Elizabeth Folk fills one of the small rooms during the Small Space Fest at Emergency Arts downtown Las Vegas, Monday, June 20, 2016.

Squares of grass removed get water and resources that the grass in situ does not—a value of what's now gone.

We can hear the rock band playing in the elevator on the first floor, booming up the elevator shaft and permeating part of the second floor. Like a carnival, everything blends, overlaps and leads to something else. And so when mezzo soprano Dina Emerson is singing Peter Gabriel’s “Hear Comes the Flood” with her glass harp, an audible disco sound comes from the Beat. In a black fitted dress, she beautifully slays ABBA’s “S.O.S.” with deep passion near the "Amor Prohibido" Selena-inspired installation by Justin Favela and Mikayla Whitmore, a work that covers an entire hallway—and then some—with tissue paper and Mylar.

Every room and nook and cranny has something going on here. Even toilet placards in the upstairs bathrooms say, “PleaseHoldHandleDownforFiveSeconds—Sir John Harrington, porcelain, 2002, NFS." Harrington, a 16th century poet celebrated for inventing the toilet, has us contemplating the daily and banal several centuries later.

This is what Elizabeth Colon Nelson, artist Heidi Rider and Adriana Chavez—founders of the Weft in the Weave collective—had been piecing together for the past two years and the community is eating up.

Small Space Fest

Jodie Goodnough’s inkjet prints on cotton of a soothing green landscape—a view from a psychiatric institution back in the day—leads into a series of contemporary, orderly and unadorned portraits of friends and family diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder and medicated (currently or prior). The work relates to today’s pharmaceutical, quick-care mental-health industry, compared to the famously horrid days or cruel asylums that actually had humane intent with, Goodnough says, “restorative landscapes.” What's worse or better is up to the viewer to consider. This is how we treat suffering.

A piece in Jim White's "palimpsest" goes back even further in humanity's lesson. Works on paper using cement and discarded objects include an abstract portrait of Socrates, which to the literally minded begs to be read historically. Under his crumbled paper robe is smeared concrete, a story Plato began and ultimately dispersed through the centuries, leaving fragments of Socrates' teachings casting off into the world ahead.

Nearly 100 artists and performers have come to discuss humanity—no mater how abstractly or unintentional—through their work. And now, in his philosophy den, Holmes questions artist Miguel Rodriguez before a small crowd:

“What can a person know?”

“What they choose.”

“Is there free will?”

Artist Brent Holmes conducts a survey as part of his psychologically charge art performance during the Small Space Fest at Emergency Arts downtown Las Vegas, Monday, June 20, 2016.

Artist Brent Holmes conducts a survey as part of his psychologically charge art performance during the Small Space Fest at Emergency Arts downtown Las Vegas, Monday, June 20, 2016.

“Yes.”

“Do you believe in fate?

“I waver.”

“How do you feel about social conventions?”

“They help a society build upon. Doesn’t mean that they are good.”

This goes on a few minutes until Holmes puts down his notes, spreads onion jam onto bread with a spoon and says, “You’re an epicurean, my friend.” The rest of us wait until it's our turn and the night leads toward the morning.

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