by Audrey Barcio
Recently, I was honored when the Brooklyn-based artist/curator Julie Torres invited me to represent Nevada in her Miami art fair exhibition, ART IN AMERICA. The magic came together for one week last December at the former Ocean Terrace Hotel, a modest, mid-mod, two-level building looking out to the white sand beach located just blocks north from the Art Basel scene. Torres’ show was part of Artist-Run, one of the subsections of a large satellite art fair that had been named simply Satellite.
I visited the Tumblr site on which Torres had uploaded images of the works she had selected. While living in Brooklyn a few summers back I had been able to see some of her projects and her own work, so I had an idea what to expect. I knew that she had an interest with abstract forms, a sharp focus on material and process, and that her curations usually contained a bit of figuration.
For ART IN AMERICA she had chosen work from artists in all fifty states plus Puerto Rico. I wondered if I knew any of the other people who were selected for her show, and how Torres’ contemporary art selection from various states with wildly different cultural and topographic landscapes, such as Hawaii, Nebraska, Alaska or Nevada would differ.
Gazing at the images I was able to pick out a few artists that I’d seen before, yet there were so many new ones. The idea of place wouldn’t leave my mind.
Moving to Las Vegas nearly two and half years ago from Los Angeles I couldn’t have predicted how much the changing landscape would impact my work. Prior to moving to the desert, my work consisted of large oil paintings and material based installations in public spaces. Today, I’m influenced by natural vs. fluorescent pigments, reflection, fur, and materials like mirrored acrylic. As I sit in my studio surrounded by bodies of new work I realize that it was natural for those new materials to find their way into my space while living in the middle of an atomic neon desert.
If living and working in proximity to the Las Vegas Strip and the desert could affect my choice of materials, how has an opposite environment like Alaska influenced artists working there? As I searched for Alaska’s representative in the Art in America show, I was pulled into the work of Andreana Donahue, a name that was unfamiliar to me. Her object rake (2015) was striking. The paper sculpture simplified the form of a small mechanical excavator down to a basic white shape. It was subtle and meticulously made. The inside had been stained with wild Alaskan blueberry residue. Synesthesia took over and I responded immediately to her shaman-like choice of materials, evocative of the starkness of the Alaskan landscape.
Alaska is one of a handful states I haven’t visited. It has always intrigued me. Northern lights, arctic air, fierce wildlife, and so far away from everything that I have come to accept as the American experience.
Compelled to see Donahue’s work in person and to take in the flood of other voices from around the US, I decided to make the trip to go see the group show Julie Torres had curated in person. I’ve always wanted to make the jaunt to Miami in December and felt that it was finally time.
Arriving in Miami, I realized that the show had been a massive undertaking. All of the curators in Artist-Run had worked hard to make the rundown hotel habitable. Floors were ripped up, walls painted, makeshift lighting installed, and yes, a few decaying elements had to be removed. When I saw rake in person, I was even more impressed with Torres’ curation. She had positioned the sculpture on top of found cement pavers in the corner on an angle. The rough man-made material gave the delicate object emphasis and grounding. The unusually low setting helped the work to stand out in a room full of compelling paintings and sculptures.
It would be impossible to describe each piece of art in detail but the feeling of seeing work from around the US in one room will live on. Knowing there are people living everywhere all balancing the same work/life of being an artist was inspiring. During my visit I also ran into friends from different parts of the globe, all of who had come there either to curate, to exhibit, or to look for new work to add to their collection. The whole experience felt like a giant love fest. I would have liked to meet Andreana Donahue but she hadn’t traveled to the fair. Ironically, after I got home I would discover that she was based in Las Vegas as well, and that her Alaskan work had been produced during a residency in Juneau two months before it appeared in Miami. I’m looking forward to a studio visit with her in Las Vegas this spring.
I believe Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that we are all searching for others who make up our metaphysical baseball team in this world. I’m often struck by this phenomenon and reminded just how much art keeps us searching.
Audrey Barcio is an interdisciplinary artist working with the questions surrounding the human condition. Her work has been published in “New American Paintings,” and her public art installation “Continual Eventual” was recently on view at the Clark County Government Center Rotunda Gallery in Las Vegas. She is currently an MFA candidate in Studio Art at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Spring 2016). Her thesis exhibition SPACE BETWEEN will be on view from March 28-April 8 at the Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery.
Title image: detail, Stephanie Sachs, Wide Open Dreams, from ART IN AMERICA
Posted by Wendy Kveck