Q+A with Brendan Tang

It's as if Brendan Tang has a magic ability to bypass not only the finickiness of clay as a material, but the very rules of physics. He drapes ancient Chinese vases — as if they were fabric — over tools, electronics or pieces that look like smooth, mutant jet-engine parts. He splices together the weight of history and the shiny allure of technology as if they were fraternal twins. (Oh wait, maybe they are.) More ... 

What does happen in Vegas, anyway?

On one hand, Las Vegas is a city of excess and opulence. It's where you go to go big. On the other hand, it's not all glitz. Once you step off The Strip it's just a normal place, where people do normal things, like go to water parks and eat good food in strip malls. And the art scene? 

"We don't have collectors. We don't have any significant events. We don’t have a museum," said artist Gig Depio. In a metro area of two million, that's pretty unusual.

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Fresh from Mex


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Forever in neon?

"The old, cool Reno is slowly going to disappear," said John Molezzo. He's a photographer who still sees the romance in the oddball architecture and retro neon signage of downtown's aging motels. He chronicles it in photos and collages that are as melancholy as they are lavish.  

Last week when I read Mike Higdon's article in the RGJ, Big changes coming to Center Street, on two downtown developments about to kick off, I imagined how different downtown is likely to look in a decade or so, I wondered what Molezzo might be thinking about the impending changes. 

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Why I write about art

Once you've said everything you can say using the languages of other disciplines, there are still some stones left unturned. 

As a high school student, I drew in sketchbooks. In college I'd spend entire days making pictures appear on photo paper in trays of chemicals. (That never stopped being magical!) In grad school I made sculptures out of bricks and pennies and glass tumblers. They looked like they might fall, but they never did. 

All along, there was something I was trying to express. I knew I was going for a look of stable precariousness but I couldn't quite get my finger on why. I'm better with words now, so I can squeeze it into a nutshell.

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Where's Wally?

Wally Cuchine is telling stories to a small audience in the visitors center in Rancho San Rafael Regional Park during a noontime lecture. In khaki shorts and hiking shoes, he looks like he could be a wilderness guide. But the way he slows down when he utters the words "gre-aat" and "amaa-azing," drawing them out so long he almost adds an extra syllable, suggests that his passion is for something other than identifying the desert willow or sage grouse.

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Tunnel vision

We loaded a friends’ parents Suburban to capacity with tents and art history books and headed to Utah. We enlisted a team of research assistants: Casey Clark, 26, a potter and art student from Reno, Christina Hansford, 21, a jeweler and education major from Reno, my son, Nico, 2, and Elaine’s daughter, Aurora, 6.

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The budget for gas and camp site fees was compliments of the good-humored Nevada Arts Council, who agreed that our mission sounded like “Professional Development,” based on the fact that we’d committed to returning with enough first-hand knowledge of Utah land art to develop a series of college art classes.

Beyond that, our mission was open-ended. We left prepared for surprise.

Acrylic native

Some artists take on new subject matter and new forms with each project. Some prefer to keep perfecting variations on a theme or two, slowly refining their craft and their viewpoint.

Melissa Melero's take? "People always ask if I run out of ideas. No! I could paint one concept forever!"

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We're all doing time

In 1978, Tehching Hsieh, a 28-year-old performance artist, made a prison-like cell out of wooden dowels in his lower Manhattan studio. He went by the name "Sam" to camouflage his immigration status. He'd come from Taiwan as a sailor and jumped ship a few years earlier. 

He spent a year in the cell with nothing but a cot, a sink, and a bucket, talking to no one and reading nothing, as a piece of performance art. 

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Transporting the Portal

I was riding my bike downtown today and I saw a huge, steel butterfly wing lying on the grass and another wing being hoisted by a forklift. It's the Portal of Evolution, a sculpture by Bay Area artist Brian Tedrick that's been in City Plaza since 2012.

"Where's it going?" I asked the man guiding the wing that was dangling from the forklift. 

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Destination Fernley?

I can't get these two stereotypes out of my mind: The term "Main Street" comes auto-loaded with pedestrians strolling down shaded sidewalks into ice cream parlors with striped awnings. The term "park" brings to mind amenities like lawns, picnic tables, and things that would make you want to linger outdoors for while.

As for "art park," that could be lot of different things. Start with Berkley's Adventure Playground and Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, and let your imagination go from there.

Main Street Art Park opened last summer in Fernley, a ranching community turned subdivided industrial/commuter town 34 miles east of Reno.

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Jenny Valloric arrived in Virginia City Monday with a traveler's perspective, a cleared calendar, and a weaving loom in the back of her SUV.

Jenny's an Artist in Residence at St. Mary’s Art & Retreat Center, the historic-hospital-turned-art-center a few blocks down the hill from the town's main drag.

St. Mary's provides a bedroom for a month or two, kitchen access, studio space, and gallery walls to show artwork on. Artists pay a fee and go through a jurying process. They come from around the country and around the globe. Jenny is from Fort Collins, Colorado.

I gave her a call a few days post-arrival to ask how things were going.

She half-joked, "My first thought was, 'What am I getting myself into?'"

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Know your neighbor

On Wednesay the Reno City Council considered a proposal to allow the Generator to lease a plot of land for $1 a year for a new facility and sculpture park.

One art piece that would likely find a home there is Pier 2, the three-story replica of a shipwrecked Spanish galleon built for Burning Man in 2012 by Generator Executive Director Matt Schultz and an army of volunteers. ...

The Reno Gazette Journal's Anjeanette Damon posted a detailed account of the discussion and Tweeted a play-by-play as the meeting unfolded, so the only work left for me is to point out one rich coincidence. 

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