In the spirit of this week’s annual Las Vegas Weekly Outdoor Issue, here is a roundup of local and regional artists who take inspiration from the majesty and geography of the Desert Southwest. A little research reveals that more artists interact with the outdoors than we could ever hope to include in one article, so if you don’t find your favorite here, keep looking. Like the natural world, the art world encompasses great variety.
Nothing beats joyful illustrations of the outdoors. Outdoorsy artist and climber Mary Felker (aka MaryOnAdventures) sells her fanciful depictions of Nevada on her Etsy page. Her stickers fit into even the slimmest budget. Las Vegas-based illustrator Abbie Paulhus makes happy art on many subjects, but her outdoorsy designs are especially delightful.
Like nature, sometimes outdoorsy art can’t fit into one, neat medium. For example: Myranda Bair makes watercolor fish and then presents them inside glass jars. JK Russ collages images of birds and landscapes into striking art. Bobbie Ann Howell, the Nevada Humanities program wrangler, makes intricate snowflakes out of cut paper. Working in oil, watercolor and sometimes spray paint, Fawn Douglas makes landscapes that draw from desert vistas along with her Paiute culture and heritage. Sierra Slentz is currently making ceramic wall sculptures based on desert landscapes, and she’s also working with the Goldwell Open Air Museum to host artist projects in the desert.
There’s a grand history of artists embarking upon painting trips to capture the West, dating back to the 1800s with Albert Bierstadt’s depictions of Yosemite and Frederic Remington’s Wild West scenes. So many artists carry on that tradition that Zion National Park hosts an annual Plein Air painting event in early November. Some of our favorite contemporary landscape oil painters include: Harold Bradford (check out his 8-by-153-foot desert landscape mural “Tryptych Passages” in the McCarran Airport D Gates); Utah’s J. Brad Holt, who makes lush and choppy desert landscapes; Robert Beckmann, some of whose stunning works offer a Vegas twist on the aforementioned Bierstadt style; and Erin Hanson, now of San Diego, who has beautifully captured the dappled light of Mount Charleston.
The American West hosts another great art tradition with photography. Think of the hyperreal landscapes of Ansel Adams and, in his footsteps, the casino-mall galleries of large-format photos by Peter Lik. UNLV art instructor Checko Salgado combines photography with conservation by documenting Nevada’s Basin and Range National Monument. (See his work in the current show ¡Americanx! at UNLV’s Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery, which he co-curated.) Rock climber and photographer Irene Yee has made a career of combining her two loves by shooting rock climbers. And former Weekly staff photographer Mikayla Whitmore has gone on to make quirky photos of desert landscapes.