Showers bring artistic flowers

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By Birdie Jaworski

Imagine a bovine alien in your garden. His eyes don’t mimic almonds, his body doesn’t don the silver suit of a galactic wanderer.

Rather, he stands on vertical hooves, his exposed trunk an expanse of weathered coil and spring.

He is the nightmare of a thousand childhood sci-fi movies. He is the height of a gnome, the monster under your bed. His head carries the ragged antennae of a sideshow bull’s horns. He looks cute, terrifying, an oil-pitch sentry. He is the somehow living recycled hothouse buffalo man of Las Vegas sculptor Debbie Morse.

“Since I was a child, I was always hands-on,” Morse reminisces. “I remember getting in trouble for sitting on play-dough with my corduroy pants to see what kind of pattern I could make. In the first grade I won a prize for my painting of a Thanksgiving Turkey. I learned to sew, crochet and embroidery by the age of nine.”

Today Morse creates otherworldly artworks from salvaged metal, window frames, stained glass — found objects that she fuses and knits together using wire, sweat, and a daring sense of humor. “Having access to a scrap metal yard here in Las Vegas has opened up more opportunity for different ideas to form because of the random things I find,” she laughs. “In the searching process it also creates a sense of excitement within me. I’m always looking for that one-of-a-kind item to make something extraordinary.”

Morse’s work can be seen during the month of April at the Las Vegas Arts Council’s gallery at 140 Bridge Street, as part of a Las Vegas Celebrates the Arts rotating exhibition project spanning the spring and summer. This month’s program is titled “Textile Design and Garden Sculpture” and features the work of several local artists whose works shadow and reflect nature’s budding fury. An artists’ reception from 4 to 6 p.m. on April 9, coinciding with the Second Saturday Artwalk, will allow patrons to meet Morse as well as fellow exhibitors Lisa Gamble, Adam Caldwell, and Aaron Juarros. Weather permitting, the exhibit will be extended beyond the indoor gallery to include garden sculpture and garden plants for sale in the adjoining breezeway.

“My sculptures range in size from small to large and somewhere in between,” Morse says about her pieces in the show. “The rust on the metal reminds me how strong metal starts out but eventually weakens, breaks down, and returns back to the earth, the ultimate in recycling. I would say my art is more for the public. Some of my metal sculptures have sharp edges — they may reach out and get you! My artwork is open for interpretation. My hope is that it touches your soul in some way and you have an emotional reaction to it.”

Lisa Gamble creates heirloom quality quilts inspired by Middle Eastern an European designs. “From 1978 to  2005 my art and business was in photography — exhibition, teaching and commercial work,” Gamble explains. “I worked mostly in black and white and love the craft and process of darkroom work. As digital photography became more pervasive and more in demand, particularly in the commercial and teaching realms, I found myself at a computer more than in the darkroom.”

Gamble found herself missing the tactile aspects of craft and found herself playing with fabrics and sewing as a diversion. “Piecing together quilts was simultaneously relaxing and stimulating,” she continues. “While still two dimensional, I appreciate the added element of functionality in a quilt. To be warmed and covered and comforted by something beautiful became an expression of love for each family member. As my children went out into the world, I wanted them to have that from me. Soon friends had quilts and commissions came for wedding, anniversary, baby and birthday gifts.”

Adam Caldwell silk screens fabric panels featuring English garden shrub designs abstracted into patterned hangings. “I work in two areas,” Caldwell muses. “One pays the rent, the other runs away with my creativity and art. Computers pays the rent. Clothing and textiles are the creativity and artwork. My art portfolio now holds fabrics as a standard medium, my tailoring work brings hand printed designs, advanced dye techniques, batik methods and screen printed design elements. My strongest artistic ability is my great fondness and an eye for pattern.”

Aaron Juarros uses man made non-biodegradable materials to portray the antithesis of nature, which he juxtaposes with natural raw materials in order to create an awareness of the problems faced by our struggling environment. “My most recent work is laden with devices of reverence and irreverence for nature,” Juarros says. “The works I am currently exhibiting explore plastic’s effect on the landscape.”

The beauty doesn’t end at the Las Vegas Arts Council. The Second Saturday Artwalk continues throughout the Las Vegas Arts and Culture District, in both Old and New Town, all afternoon from 1-6pm with a program of talks, gallery shows, music, wine tastings, delicious local cuisine, as well as special offers and discounts at participating merchants.

El Zocalo Cooperative Art Gallery at 212 Plaza features the paintings, drawings, woodcuts, prints and note cards of Las Vegas artist Marti Nash, whose whimsical and colorful works feature humans and animals in a variety of thought-provoking ways. “I work in a studio above the garage behind my house, with large windows on all four sides that give the feeling of a treehouse or eyrie,” Nash describes.

A full listing of all events, discounts, and special dinners can be picked up at MainStreet de Las Vegas on the Plaza, or at any participating merchant in the Arts and Culture District.