Tuesday, February 24, 2015

An Artist Residency Experience at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

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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.

 

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