Thursday, November 5, 2015

An On-Set Visit With Las Vegas Body Painting Artist & Skin Wars Producer Robin Slonina

The sign on the entrance to Stage 7 at Hollywood’s Sunset Gower Studios reads “Closed Set – No Photography”. Filming of the third season of The Game Show Network’s popular SkinWars body painting contest is underway and the identity and progress of the contestants is a closely guarded secret until the ten episodes are screened. All the contestants are sequestered away during the six-week shoot without access to the potential distractions of cell phones and television until they are either eliminated or master the creative challenges to claim the $100,000 prize money. 
            Robin Slonina, Las Vegas-based artist and owner of Skin City Body Painting, has been a producer and judge for each Skin Wars series. She laughs, “We call it body paint boot camp, but we look after our contestants. They stay together in a house with a pool, barbeque and pool table, and the current group have been entertaining themselves by choreographing and performing song and dance routines.” 

Taking a break from filming, Slonina and fellow expert body painting judge, New Orleans-based artist Craig Tracy describe what they will be looking for in the winning contestant. “Our three main criteria are creativity, technique and the execution of the challenge, and the artists must be able to work under pressure. It’s anyone’s game right up to the last challenge. A contestant could be winning the whole time, then make one mistake and they’re out”.
              Transformation icon Ru Paul completes the judging trio and X-Men star Rebecca Romijn hosts. Skin Wars season three is scheduled to screen early 2016.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Art Fashion Intercourse at Sydney Contemporary

A large red cloud greets us as we enter the airy atrium of the historic Carriageways building, temporary home to the four-day Sydney Contemporary international art fair. Once used as a maintenance warehouse for rail engines, the large brick structure has been restored to maintain its original character and repurposed as a multi-arts center.

Inside the 87,000 sq ft space more than 90 galleries represent 14 countries. Alongside the gallery booths are 18 large-scale installations curated by Sydney-based The Curators' Department and a moving image program curated by the Australian Center for the Moving Image. The performance art program includes works by 110 percent, Matthew Couper, Rosie Deacon and James Nguyen with curation by Connie Anthes and Emma Price. Also taking place over the course of the fair is a series of artist talks and panel discussions covering a range of topics including appropriation, post-internet art and the relevance of gender.

I'm able to schedule attendance to the Fashion Forum: Contemporary Trends hosted by Vogue Australia. Sophie Tedmanson, Australian Vogue Deputy Editor initiates discussion on the current fusion of art and fashion, in the context of the art-dominated 2014 Spring/Summer collections and the rising practice of fashion houses creating their own art museums.

Designers Luke Sales and Anna Plunket of Australian label Romance is Born describe their philosophy of collaborating with artists for their fabric prints. They list mutual respect as a key ingredient for success, with the artists allowing them free reign in the use of their work. Plunket sees art as creating a fantasy world that transports the viewer and this was the aim of their 'Cooee Couture' show at the Art Gallery of New South Wales where they featured handmade Australiana-themed clothes in a tableau-like performance.

Alison Kubler acknowledges the popularity of fashion-themed exhibitions currently curated in public art institutions, with Alexander McQueen's 'Savage Beauty' show being one of the most highly attended exhibitions at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London with 493,043 people viewing it during its 21-week run.

Melbourne-based artist Rhys Lee shares his perspective on the collaborative process he undertook with designer Lisa Gorman in 2012. He describes his process of providing Gorman with a large pre-existing painting along with commissioned ink patterns on paper which she transferred to computer, then digitally printed images onto fabric and created colorful jumpsuits and other designs. Following that successful project, Lee is now working with Californian surfing brand RVCA on a clothing range and other products to be released in 2016.

Sydney fashion is known for it's monochromatic palette and sculptural silhouettes. However, I note a strong, colorful, graphic trend in the attire of many fairgoers that complements the splashes of dramatic color in booths throughout the fair. There is almost too much art to experience and there are many works I would love to spend more time with. The vitality of the fair is seductive and it's hard to leave at the end of the night. But as I head out into the indigo darkness, I carry the image of the towering red cloud with me. Sydney Contemporary has left an indelible mark.

Talk Contemporary: Vogue Australia Presents the Fashion Forum with Deputy Editor Sophie Tedmanson, Artist Rhys Lee, Romance is Born designers Luke Sales and Anna Plunket and writer/curator Alison Kubler.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Inside Wynn Las Vegas

One of the most visually stunning casinos on the Las Vegas Strip is the 2,716-room Wynn Las Vegas, opened in 2005. The lead designer was Nevada native Roger Thomas and the signature red carpet was designed by French interior decorator Jacques Garcia.
In 2013, Wynn Las Vegas commissioned event designer Preston Bailey to create two major floral installations for the atrium - a hot air balloon and a spinning carousel. The core construction is
fiber-reinforced plastic adorned by more than 110,000 flowers.
Contemporary art from the Wynn Collection can be found throughout the casino including Jeff Koons' mirror-polished stainless steel sculptures "Tulips" and "Popeye".
Large glowing parasols suspended above the hotel lobby
Rotating Carousel floral installation by Preston Bailey
Hot Air Balloon floral sinstallation by Preston Bailey

Floral balls suspended in the atrium
"Tulips" by Jeff Koons

Above the pool area
Topiary gardens leading to pool area

Friday, May 29, 2015

Party in the Afterglow Sets the Stage for 12" of Sin International Juried Art Award

Farasha Desert Siren performs in the Main Space at Party in the Afterglow
  Party in the Afterglow is the kind of event where party-goers often rival the performers with attention-grabbing outfits. Sin City Gallery Director Dr Laura Henkel and Gallery Manager/burlesque performer Lou Lou Roxy worked together to develop this annual celebration of visual and performative works that address love, lust and all the complex variances in-between, and sets the scene for three months of festivities surrounding the 12 Inches of Sin International Juried Art Award.
Two party-goers put on an impromptu performance.

Party in the Afterglow entertainment was continuous throughout the evening in both the Main Space, and the Garden of Eden VIP area where photography was off limits, encouraging impromptu audience participation. Featured performers were Lily Starr, La Rosa Muerta, Morgane Latouche, Nomi Malone, Randilyn, The Raunchy Professor, Madame Estrella, Michelle Jackson, Farasha Desert Siren, Blue Ruin, Ophelia Pearl and her Gimp Jeffery, Lou Lou Roxy, Ambrosia Minge and Suwasit. Dr Sketchy's supplied a model and drawing materials, and DJ Carey C provided the music. Local charity organization Sin Sity Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence benefited from the event.
World Male Pole Dance Champion Suwasit
The party also offered a preview of the finalists' works selected for the 12 Inches of Sin Juried Art Award and Le Salon Des Refusés Du PéchéUS artist Raymond Elstad was awarded Best in Show for his black & white digital photographic work Box Grid, and will have a solo show in 2016 at Sin City Gallery.

Also invited to participate in the 12 Inches of Sin Award Show are Gregory Brown (UK), Chris Labine (USA), Steve Bormes (USA), Barbra Loveless (USA), Billy Pacak (USA), Daniel Martinez (Uruguay), Yousif Del Valle (USA), Juan Ramiro Torres (USA), CADOC (Canada), Michelle Delecki (USA) and Héctor Pineda (Mexico). 

The selection committee responsible for narrowing down all the submissions to 12 finalists was comprised of notable international, national and local figures involved in the arts: Aurore Giguet, Program Manager, The Marjorie Barrick Museum, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Brent Mizel, Pinup Pointe Gallery; Christopher John Ball, Co-Founder, The Association of Erotic Artists; Dennis McBride, Curator, Nevada State Museum; Henry Rosenthal, Filmmaker and Musician; Dr. Laura Henkel, Director, Sin City Gallery, and Founder, ArtCulture PR; Lou Lou Roxy, Gallery Manager, Sin City Gallery, and Burlesque Entertainer; Lucio Bubacco, Glass Artisan; Miltancia Erotica, Art Consortium and Richard Schemmerer, PDXart.
Burlesque performer Blue Ruin in the pink

The Best in Show winner was then chosen by a separate committee comprising Allena Gabosch, Producer, The Seattle Erotic Art Festival; Catherine Johnson-Roehr, Curator, The Kinsey Institute; Francois Dubeau, Artist; Hans Van Der Kamp, Founder, The World Museum of Erotic Art; Jerry Vile, Co-founder, The Dirty Show; Julian Murphy, Artist; Marne Lucas, Artist; Dr. Sadie Allison, CEO, Tickle Kitty, Inc; S.R. Sharp, Executive Director, The Tom of Finland Foundation; Sister Loosey Lust Bea Lady, Founder, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Las Vegas Chapter; Steve Diet Goedde, Artist; and Tony Mitchell, Founder, The Fetishistas.

The 12 Inches of Sin IV Award Show opens at Sin City Gallery June 4, following on from last years' 12 Inches Best in Show winner, Bulgaria-based artist JP Rakehorn. Then from July 2nd, Le Salon Des Refusés Du Péché exhibition, curated by Dr Laura Henkel will take place. For those wishing to retain a taste of each of the 12 Inches shows, Sin City Gallery is publishing hard-cover editions featuring all the selected works to date.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

An Artist Residency Experience at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Completing an artist residency in a large resort on the Las Vegas Strip has definitely been one of the most interesting art experiences to date. The P3Studio residency is a partnership between The Cosmopolitan of LasVegas and Art Production Fund in New York City. The residency program is designed to provide guests with an interactive art experience, so there is always a participatory element to each project and artists change monthly.
When I open the studio doors to visitors for the first time on Wednesday, December 11, I am not sure exactly what to expect. I have produced two previous audience-participation collage projects – the first took place over a few hours at the London Biennale in Nevada satellite project and the second over a few days at the Life is Beautiful Festival. However, the House of Paper Birds project at The Cosmopolitan spans a few weeks, and at the end of the residency period, I estimate that visitors will have completed two collage panels inspired by the fruit of the Joshua Tree and a large reverse-glass window collage where bird-women reign over a desert landscape. I provide a starting point for each of the works, then with a little guidance, the visitors do the rest.
I hope that during the process, visitors will also enjoy the opportunity to browse a range of fashion, lifestyle and art magazines in the adjoining Reading Room. This area is inspired by the MOCA Grand Avenue Reading Room in Los Angeles and is designed for me by Patina Décor. I also envision conversations taking place around the large studio table amongst friends old and new, as visitors source collage material from the stacks of magazines.

As it happens, my hopes for cultural interchange are exceeded. The P3Studio visitors are of all ages and from all over the states, with many from other countries also. Christmas is fun. I Skype with family in New Zealand on our Christmas Eve, and spend Christmas Day in the studio meeting many family groups who are enjoying the bright lights and festive events on the Strip. There are little toddlers who paste paper strips onto the window collage and charm me by blowing me kisses. There are teenagers who talk about their love of art and leave me little drawings. Some people stay for a few minutes, some stay for an hour or more. And at the end of the residency, the collaborative collage works seem to almost vibrate with the convergence of their collective energy.
I am joined in the weekends by invited special guests who bring elements of the House of Paper Birds to life; artist Shelbi Schroeder appears as an aloof black swan watching us watching her, burlesque entertainer Lou Lou Roxy demonstrates the skilled techniques of the fan dance, fashion designer Mina Kahn exemplifies the exotic in her feathered creations on models Kathy C Liu and Tarah Una Robinson, and entertainer/fashionista Devi Amuro stages an intergalactic fashion invasion of the Reading Room with models Starza and Lashonza Ferguson.
In the same way that collage combines disparate elements and creates something fresh, the residency has brought together my favorite aspects of Las Vegas – fashion, flamboyance, performance and the dramatic desert environment – and created a singular experience within the wider cultural experience of The Cosmopolitan itself. In addition to the residency program, The Cosmopolitan curates the public art program Pause, also in partnership with Art Production Fund, where moving image works by artists such as Tracey Emin, TJ Wilcox and Laurie Simmons periodically take over the large-scale LED signs. The Cosmopolitan brings a wealth of contemporary visual art to Las Vegas, while incorporating local artists into the mix and offering visitors the opportunity to participate in building this creative culture. The positive energy I experienced in this process is something that will always stay with me.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Las Vegas Lights Up Red for World AIDS Day

Las Vegas' famous neon lights turned red on World AIDS Day to show support in the fight against HIV/AIDS and honor those who have passed away. In a morning ceremony, Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN) Executive Director Antioco Carrillo along with Clark County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani helped turn the lights on the world-famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign red while red ribbons were passed to the crowd before a moment of silence.

Sisolak said, "It's great to see our community come together and show those living with HIV and AIDS that we stand with them and they are not alone."

Carrillo added, "This tells the entire community and the world that we are working together to create awareness and eradicate HIV and AIDS."

At 8 p.m., several casinos and landmarks on the Strip, downtown and across the city displayed red lights or a World AIDS Day image on their marquees, including the High Roller, Caesars Palace, Keep Memory Alive Event Center, Station Casinos, The Stratosphere, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, SLS Las Vegas, Las Vegas City Hall, Cosmopolitan Las Vegas and the Miracle Mile Shops.

Below is an image by Antioco Carrillo of the High Roller glowing red in support.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Visual Art Is Vibrant at Life Is Beautiful Festival 2014

"Love is Power. Power is Life. Life is Beautiful." The words are scrawled in red, encircling a cut out of a large, purple cactus flower. Pasted to the wall, the flower is surrounded by hundreds of other natural desert elements, with hand-written messages. For this year's Life is Beautiful festival, my proposal submitted to curator Patrick Duffy envisioned a collage installation created by the festival visitors themselves, slowly growing over the three days of the festival.
Attendance numbers were up for Las Vegas' second Life is Beautiful festival held during the last of the warm weather in late October. The focus on visual arts was again strong, with the exhibition venue moving to the previously shuttered Western Hotel, sharing space with the guest speakers in the Learning component. The Street Art Program, again curated by Charlotte Dutoit, brought new works to buildings in downtown Las Vegas. With many mural works from the first festival in 2013 still in existence, the face of downtown has changed dramatically.
I've put together a slideshow with Huffington Post, offering a tour of both temporary and permanent visual art features of the 2014 festival. I can't promise that it's fully comprehensive, but it gives a taste of the visual smörgåsbord available to festival-goers taking time out from the multitude of aural offerings. The first images were taken the evening before the festival opened, when some of the visiting street artists were putting the finishing touches on their works. For further information on artists, see the Life is Beautiful line-up.
The best festivals are uplifting, creating a powerful positive energy that lives on after the festival is over. In the downtown center of a city where stark reminders of the hard-hitting recent recession are still evident, the Life is Beautiful festival achieved that for me. As one of my collage participants wrote, quoting the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, "Destruction leads to a very rough road but it also breeds creation."

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jevijoe Vitug and the the Sarimanok Flamingo


Jevijoe Vitug has embraced the dualities inherent in working as a Las Vegas artist originating from the Philippines. A blend of Early Asian and Contemporary Western styles is evident in his show “Wasteland/Oasis” at 5th Wall Gallery in the Emergency Arts complex. In the talk he gave at the opening reception, he listed convergence, confluence and coexistence as themes that flow through his work and which he sees reflected in the city itself.
            Inspired by the casino culture’s embrace of iconic architecture and exotic creatures from around the world, Vitug has created his own seductive visual fusions. The pink flamingo features in the large-scale triptych, combined with elements of the multi-colored Sarimanok, a bird/man featured in legends from the island of Mindanao, in the Philippines.
            Vitug described the culture shock he experienced when moving from a group of islands with a conservative Catholic culture to the desert city of Las Vegas, where water is a precious commodity and giant billboards promote sex as commodity. The Wasteland/Oasis series of works feature converging streams of water suggesting the merging of cultures flowing around iconic Las Vegas landmarks such as the Strip roller coasters, neon symbols and phallic towers.
            However, behind these vibrant juxtapositions are areas of ruin. Vitug stated “Nothing is permanent, no matter how powerful. We can intellectualize it, but we cannot control it”.
Exhibition runs through December 7th 2013.

Jevijoe Vitug is a Philippine-born Las Vegas based artist whose work ranges from painting, performance and community-based projects often addresses notions of survival and environmental and economic concerns. Recently, he founded Re:Source Art and Development (RAD), an art initiative dedicated to community collaboration, research and development of locally-based resources.

            Vitug received his BFA in Painting (cum laude) from St. Scholastica’s College Manila, Philippines and attended graduate school at San Francisco Art Institute’s MFA New Genres program in 2008. His solo exhibitions include “Casino Capital” at Momas and Dadas New Genres Project House (2013), “How To’s” at Winchester Cultural Center (2012), “Before/After: Nuclear Weapons Testing Legacy” at 5th Wall Gallery (2012), “The Truns” at Manila Contemporary, Philippines (2011), “Source of Living” at Pablo Galleries, Philippines (2010).

            He participated in various local and international group shows, such as “Traveling Miracle Show” at Reno Art Works, Reno (2013), “Parallel Lines” at Paul Nache, New Zealand (2013), Rainbow 7: London Biennale in Nevada at PUAH Gallery, Henderson, NV and The Contemporary Arts Center, Las Vegas, NV (2012), “Queer Manila” at Manila Contemporary, Philippines (2012), “Yet Another Tea Party” at Neant Bleu, Berlin, Germany (2011), Art in the Parking Space sponsored by LAXART, Los Angeles (2011), “Overflow” with David Medalla and Adam Nankervis at Space Gallery, Las Vegas (2011).“Let’s Build a Nation” at the Contemporary Arts Center Las Vegas (2010), “Warfield: Project Survival” at Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco (2009), “Art of How-to” Koret Educational Center, SFMOMA (2008), and the 21st Asian International Art Exhibition at Singapore Art Museum (2006). He was also awarded Nevada Arts Council’s Jackpot Grants in 2010 and 2012.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

From Happy Rocks to Bloody Heads

The first Llyn Foulkes work I saw was one of the 'blood head' works at Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica a few years ago and it left a lasting impression.  As I discovered more of his work, I could see that it is often dark, yet can also be humorous, and he certainly doesn't shy away from potentially contentious issues. This is an artist who takes a keen interest in his surroundings, both geographical and political, and incorporates critical social commentary into his paintings and mixed media works.
Money in the Bank, 1977
             The night of Foulkes' talk as part of the Visiting Artist Lecture Series at UNLV's Marjorie Barrick Museum, it had been raining heavily across the Las Vegas Valley and there were warnings of flash floods. However that didn't deter an enthusiastic audience keen to experience the fabled sharp wit of this celebrated artist who hadn't visited Las Vegas since 1965 when touring with his band. Foulkes didn't disappoint, engaging in friendly heckling with the audio visual operator who wasn't intuiting the image sequencing to his complete satisfaction, and berating an attendee in the front row who made the mistake of answering her unsilenced cellphone during his talk.
             He began by describing his first solo show at the influential FerusGallery in LA in 1961, and he credited the experience with this gallery as setting him on a firm footing for the rest of his career. Andy Warhol also had his first solo show at Ferus Gallery at a later date, and Foulkes believes that he influenced Warhol's cow wallpaper works, after Warhol saw a number of Foulke's cow paintings in his Ferus show.
Llyn Foulkes in front of an image of him playing The Machine
            While he was teaching at UCLA, Foulkes produced the 1969 Happy Rock show during a three-month holiday break. He described selling more paintings than he had ever sold previously and then changed tack altogether “because I realized if I kept on doing it I would lose my soul”. There was only one painting left at the end of the show – a portrait. He kept working on it, and it became the first of a completely different series of works – the ‘blood heads’, inspired by an autopsy he had witnessed.           
            His works often include emotionally charged objects that can invoke intense responses. Double Trouble, 1991, deals with issues of gun laws and abortion and contains an actual foetus. Foulkes recalled that when the purchasers of the work discovered the foetus was real, they wanted to return it but he wouldn’t accept it back, so it has been donated to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
            The sculpture That Great Arm of Art 1997, is formed from a dead possum that he found under his house, The Last Frontier, 1997-2005, contains a mummified cat and Dali and Me, 2006, contains cow’s teeth. Foulkes said he had been surprised to hear that someone had described Dali and Me as “the most horrific painting they had ever seen.” Salvador Dali was described as being the first artist who influenced Foulkes when he was young, prompting him to steal The Secret Life of Salvador Dali from his local library. 
Llyn Foulkes with audience members after the talk
            Although he has described his ‘flat paintings’ as being his best sellers, he has developed techniques to create the perception of depth in many of his works such as the ‘dimensional painting’ The Lost Frontier which incorporates objects that cast shadows and was worked and reworked over a period of eight years.
            He has also never abandoned his interest in music, constructing The Machine which features drums, percussion and old fashioned car and bicycle horns. He played a video of his rendition of "A Smoggy Day in Old LA", performed on The Machine and said that he is now concentrating on music videos. His closing statement was poignant:
"I'll be 79 in two months' time. I gotta' get the videos out....  I'm just a one-man band."

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Traveling Miracle Show Crosses the Great Divide

JK Russ is now a blogger for The Huffington Post and has written up The Traveling Miracle Show's road trip from Las Vegas to Reno. We stopped at a number of cultural attractions and small towns en route, including the hauntingly beautiful ghost town of Goldfield, NV, where Matthew Couper photographed me beside a pair of marooned subway entrances. S.B.

Here is an abridged write-up from the Huffington Post:
In April we took an adapted version of The Traveling Miracle Show on the road to Reno, Nevada -- 450 miles north from Las Vegas across the arid Mojave Desert. Although we were following in the hoof prints of the traveling medicine shows of old, we had the benefits of bitumen and a hired Dodge Caravan, allowing us to make the trip in a day.
Our aim was to explore the broader arts and culture of Nevada and to forge personal connections with other artists to help bridge the gap between Southern and Northern Nevada that stems from more than just geographical distance. Competition for steadily decreasing state funding is one of the issues causing division, but we viewed this as even more of a reason for artists and organizations to work together to share knowledge and resources in order to realize projects.
Our first stop was Goldwell Open Air Museum, adjacent to the ghost town of Rhyolite, where we enjoyed responding to the sculptural installations, including German artist Sofie Siegmann's mosaic sculpture Sit Here!. The history of this 15-acre sculpture park dates back to 1984 when Belgian artist Albert Szukalski created his Last Supper installation. Goldwell also offers an artist residency program in the Museum's nearby Red Barn Art Center.
We also visited the historic Oats Park Art Center in the town of Fallon, 60 miles east of Reno. The former school building, built in 1914 has been beautifully restored and now comprises three galleries, a lounge bar and 350-seat theater. There were also interesting works on display by Michael Sarich, Joan Arrizabalga and Patrick Zentz among others, from the private, non-profit Churchill Art Council's regional art collection.

Having navigated the 'Great Divide' between Southern and Northern Nevada, we arrived in Reno just as the sun was setting over the snow-capped mountains and the famous neon lights were blinking on.  We headed straight to Reno Art Works based in the industrial Dickerson Road area that has become a hub for creative enterprises. Founded by Aric Shapiro and Pan Pantoja -- two artists sharing a strong social conscience -- Reno Art Works hosts regular exhibitions, open studios and multi-disciplinary events. After a tour of the venue, we were back the next day to set up for the Reno version of The Traveling Miracle Show. By the time the sun was again setting, Mayra Padilla and I were positioned in the entrance way, as a pair of contemplative human cacti. Behind us, Matthew Couper's painting monkey worked on an animated version of Albrecht Dürer's Melancholia, and Artist Michael Barrett, in minimalist athletic attire, labored to deliver A Truckload of Paradise one shovel-load at a time. His growing trail of sand tracked past Nathan Coté's images of plants miraculously grown from vacuumed dust and Jenessa Kenway's endlessly flowing High Life video installation. Later, 'Ginger Healer' Jevijoe Vitug concocted a restorative, magical brew to share with audience participants.
The short video The Traveling Miracle Show @ Reno Art Works gives a little taste of the event.

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