Image: Erin Stellmon, Chutes and Ladders, mixed media, 2006 image courtesy the artist.
Because the contemporary art community in Las Vegas is small and tight knit, relative to other cities, its losses are deeply felt. This past year, three dear friends and incredible forces left Las Vegas for family and new opportunities elsewhere: Erin Stellmon, Danielle Kelly and David Sanchez Burr. I was fortunate to share my graduate school experience at UNLV with all three artists, and they all uniquely contributed to Las Vegas, leaving lasting imprints on the art community. I’ve asked them to share writing, photo essays or other thoughts about their time here or their new surroundings for future Settlers + Nomads blog issues. – Wendy Kveck
This entry is contributed by Erin Stellmon, settler of eleven years, who now lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Mattresses shoved in dumpsters, tree stumps in rock-landscaped front yards and American flags sticking out of cactuses were just a few of my neighborhood treats that I observed when I first moved to Las Vegas. Vegas is such a driving town, but having moved from New York, I had no car and was a walker and bike rider. Walking is a great way to let your surroundings sink in, and my earliest works were in direct in response to these still lives arranged for me on my daily adventures. When you live in a place for a number of years you become numb to the uniqueness of your surroundings out of survival…it is hard to feel at home in a place that is truly strange to you, but once I decided to leave, the ability to see the weirdness of Vegas came back as a last ditch effort to keep me there, damn her. She definitely made me linger a little longer, I soaked up all the petty drama and crazy Vegas that I could, but eventually I was off to find whatever strangeness the suburbs of Baltimore County had to offer. Would I be incredibly bored? I’d never lived in the suburbs, but I had just turned 40 and maybe this was destiny, maybe it was time I invested in some golf lady visors and khaki pants. I was already becoming interested in bingo and comfortable underwear, maybe I was just going to skip middle age and go right for 4 pm dinner. Well, it turns out after all was said and done, I really needed a break from my Vegas lifestyle, and rolling farm land, crab shacks, and manicured lawns are pretty great, if even for a little while.
Weirdness is relative, but moving to a civilized landscape from the capitol of weird (after arriving here I have started to call everything civilized…my civilized morning walks, my civilized drive to work through hills of changing civilized leaves, civilized drivers using civilized turn signals while being incredibly civilized sober), and so by that line of thinking, civilized is weird, right? My husband’s mom lives in Perry Hall, a neighborhood established in 1775 that has a few older structures but is largely strip malls now; however when his family moved here from PA in the 80’s, there were still large wooded areas behind their house allowing for plenty of little boy shenanigans for him and his brother. The woods are mostly built over now, but the new condo housing is still built out of brick, which is…very civilized (in Vegas they just slap some stucco on some cardboard and call it good), and bunnies, deer, and foxes can be seen frolicking across the road (if they’re lucky). We have been calling my mother-in-law’s house our temporary home since August and it has been really nice to spend time with family and explore the countryside with someone who knows it, but I can feel the urge to live in an urban environment rising again…this body can only take so much civilization after all. I guess that is relative too.
Here is some evidence of suburban life in mailbox form:
and here are some inspiring east coast architectural accents (just because):
Erin Stellmon is a multi-disciplinary artist from Oregon who lived in Las Vegas for more than a decade. Her community-focused practice explores local manifestations of transience, memory and reinvention. In mixed-media collage work she frequently emphasizes the visual fragmentation of her compositions in order to highlight the cycles of destruction and reinvention that she perceives are endemic to the Las Vegas municipality’s civic culture. She now lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland.
all images courtesy the artist.