Until desert meets the hills
A review of Reno Art Museum’s Exhibit, Tilting The Basin
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In case you did not have the chance to check out the Reno Art Museum’s recent exhibit, Tilting The Basin, the show featured inspirational work from resident Nevada artists. Such a wide array of artists all local to one landscape is a rarity and educational delight. The exhibition showcased work from northern and southern Nevada, bridging the gap between over 30 artists. The exhibition ran from Aug. to Oct., but still resonates in art communities around this region.
Two crucial figures in the Sierra Nevada College Art department were featured, Professor of Fine Arts Russell Dudley, and Gallery Coordinator Sarah Lillegard. They offer a unique perspective as working artists on the fringe of mountain and basin. Artists were chosen based on commitment to the community and informed by both environmental and cultural identity.
Upon entering the space validated by a radiant title, my eye was caught by Lillegard’s mixed media installations jumping off the wall. Consisting of salvaged denim jackets, hand-embroidered and altered materials, the sculptures align the persistence of the ‘laborer’ with the practice of the contemporary maker. This elevates those who according to Lillegard “enable society to function yet remain anonymous”. Residing in Reno, Nevada she gathers resources from an array of rural farms, keeping the culture of the American West alive. Her work speaks to an audience of all economic standing and successfully pushes the boundary of fine art’s potential.
“Few regions have the level of romanticism, heroism, cultural imperialism and myth-making that the west possesses,” said Lillegard. “Living and working in northern Nevada means interacting with an arid, vast landscape that’s wrought with imagination and desperation”. As an exhibiting artist, she stated that “it was exciting to be in a room with my piers, friends, studio mates, mentors and see that community that I have been working in for so many years visually represented in a space”.
On the opposing side of the gallery space, Russell Dudley displayed two large-scale photographs narrating his experiences in the Sierra Nevada interwoven with personal musings that create an intimacy with the viewer. Through his artwork Dudley revels in existential moments of solitude with the land in relation to self, contemplating “the kind of sense you make when you have stayed too long alone”. Being local to northern Nevada gives context for what other regions are doing and how they can relate. Lillegard summarized that “smaller regions outside of San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York or even the Northwest, feel as though there is nothing of quality happening in their community, so they need to look to others. Part of the goal of this exhibition was to show that there is interesting relevant work happening throughout Nevada”.
The environment you live in navigates your human experience and there is no better way to express your unique voice than with art. It is important to support the sustainability of art practice within your local community. Art evokes innovation and economic activity, funded by groups such as the Nevada Arts Council (NAC) with the purpose “to enrich the cultural life of the state through leadership that preserves, supports, strengthens, and makes accessible excellence in the arts for all Nevadans.” This group enables the Reno Art Museum as well as arts education such as our own SNC Art Department to continue to grow. Attending local events makes it possible for aspiring artists to create a liberation of free speech and cultural authenticity.