Gig Depio. Muralist.
“Through the Muddy” by Gig Depio is a Moapa mural masterpiece.
The work that was dedicated Wednesday night started when Depio was awarded the commission from a competitive field back in 2017. His research on The Moapa Valley was already rigorous. The call for art asked that it reflected the rural culture of Overton, one hour or so north of Las Vegas, so the artist walked around the town, dug into archived photography, read up on the region’s history. He titled the mural “Through the Muddy,” named after the local river that attracted early settlers.
Then he painted, painted...and painted. The work was in sections and completed in his garage and living room. It stayed like a housemate who refused to leave. Watching it in progress on his Facebook feed was like watching a cable series.
But that is his artistic process. Depio is an energetic and patient storyteller. Anyone who has mingled with him at the many art exhibitions he goes to––a way to support other artists––knows how he can shift topics with no warning while taking a selfie of you and then jump into another conversation before you know he is gone. He moves in a fog of overlapping moments. That is reflected in all his paintings. There is a lot of movement that have layers of conversation and this work is the story of a town that feels it has a lot of energy contained in a quiet space. Depio proves them right.
Moapa Valley Community Center
Depio does it with masterful brush strokes that tell tales in oils on canvas panels. His style of figurative forms appear to burst in a spectrum of color, but look closely and his work is a disciplined use of mostly warm Cadmium pigments.
He nailed it. And drilled. And hammered. He did whatever he needed to do to have it to fit on the appointed wall. Then as he started putting up piece in the initial installation, Depio discovered an infrastructure flaw, so the work had to be readjusted. The mural was redesigned to fit one wall over.
That was fortunate. It works better there. Instead of being a backdrop for officials during Moapa Valley Community Center meetings, it is now a backdrop for the whole town. You see it when you walk through the main doors of the center and it has you walking on the lone main road with Depio as your guide.
During Wednesday night’s dedication the townspeople mingled with an invasion of Las Vegas city art folk. They blended with the painting’s landscape and became part of the piece. Small moments of human contact mingled with small painted moments of historic interaction. For that night, when a mural about a town’s history was dedicated, and people came in to tell stories in front of a wall telling stories, they did not realize Gig Depio gave them a 480 by 144 inch selfie.
"Through The Muddy"
Moapa Valley Community Center
320 North Moapa Boulevard. Overton, Nevada.
“Security Blanket” (2018) by Luis Varela-Rico in “¡Americanx!” at Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery.
An artist snuck a child past the border of academic infused art.
It was “Security Blanket” (2018) by Luis Varela-Rico, as seen during the run of “¡Americanx!” at Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery from October 1 through November 21. That was the one of a lone figure standing in the midst of visual conversations by other artists, many who graduated from UNLV, or teach within the Nevada Higher Education system. “Security Blanket” was one of a number of art objects in “¡Americanx!”
Varela-Rico’s sculpture, or installation, can be read as a small boy, a safe presumption by the diminutive size and smaller version of an outfit that refers to male field workers, and what is worn during late-night migration to the U.S. The piece spoke not just to policy, but to the experience of watching news reports of minors separated from parents attempting to cross the border. U.S. Varela-Rico keeps the topic visible, even as attention on left-behind children has slipped away due to the noise of White House policy and tweeting.
Varela-Rico’s art wasn't just an artist’s interpretation of slipping in unnoticed. This entry came in after the opening. It was a late add. Not from disenchantment by the artist of being part of the exhibition but having to work through a busy schedule of producing large-scale public art sculptures. Yet, in its simplicity, “Security Blanket” added a needed bite of social justice authenticity to the “¡Americanx!”
On the small figure a plaid workmen shirt is just visible, a clothing that becomes code. The pattern and material is often worn by immigrants to cope with the weather, and a subtle wardrobe item that refers to protection. There is the obvious one; an emergency thermal blanket, as those supplied when children are in holding pens. The “boy” stood inside an industrial steam table pan. That the only part of this work that was unclear. One cannot tell it was meant to be reference as an anticipated tool of kitchen prep, an implied barrier to the art, or a thread to the artist’s previous works in metal. What is clear was the writing on the pan, Sueno de Libertad, or “Dream of Freedom.”
With “Security Blanket” positioned in the open space of the gallery it gained deeper meaning when viewed with “Entre Espinas Florece Esperanza” in the background. Jess Vanessa’s mural featuring an expectant mother added a reference to others who may be affected by the politics Varela-Rico is referring to.
On its own “Security Blanket” is an emblem of the political wall built from ongoing GOP campaign promises made to red states and is a comment to the mandates pushed forth by Stephen Miller, the political advisor of current immigration policies. Miller has been accused as being an advisor of hate and isolation, a hunter that uses gestures of authority, like having children confiscated from anyone attempting to enter the country with them if they do not adhere to his interpretation of immigration law. That method became a warning shot and talking point: Dreaming of freedom may cost you your child.
The installation, or sculpture, made of real objects and clothing is a dream interrupted. The child is made anonymous by a thermal blanket over his head, and he waits to be shuffled off next by immigration authorities.
The piece, and its relationship to other works in the exhibition stayed on my mind after “¡Americanx!” closed. Always present in Varela-Rico’s work is a committed to craft that can be complicit to cultural systems that intersect in unexpected places. His metal origami birds hung on random power lines was a form of street art infiltration. Near City of Las Vegas City Hall, a pair of 16-foot stainless steel forms refer to Southern Paiute baskets, a public art reminder if the original administrators of the region.
“Security Blanket” political statement is an powerful use of a collective conscience that shared the larger media experience of seeing footage of children lined up like small prisoners steered into U.S. makeshift facilities. The work reminds us that minors are still a symbiosis between a voting base and a White House administration. All of the artworks on view revealed how social and political commentary is the readymade for Latino/a/x artists. In this piece we are reminded of the aftermath of legislation can change a person from its original function, to hope and dream, into an object controlled by those who enforce policy.
Legs visible under the silver that reflects sun and light, the artist may also be saying that the government use of shiny objects tried to have us think children were being cared for. That had the work give larger context in this exhibition of works by local Latino artist who had different experiences living in the American West. The child, and the family that brought him here, wanted to be part of that experience. Here he is portrayed as being hidden in plain sight and unable to witness the conversations around him. The young prisoner of politics is patiently waiting to be shuffled into the next room.
Gig Depio with Art 107 Design Fundamentals I in class room 152 at UNLV college of fine arts. December 4, 2018.
It is just about the end of the Fall 2018 semester in the creative confines of the UNLV Department of Art. Painter/muralist/selfie expert Gig Depio was my final guest for what I dubbed the Alternative UNLV Artist Lecture series. Depio started right away by demonstrating his networking skills. He looked at random works by the students and talked shop, from why to avoid messy charcoal to never fear too many things in your composition. He also bantered with art chair Marcus Civin over pizza. Then for his talk, he spoke about his father, also a professional painter, raising him to be an artist, then Depio became a business major. A form of rebelling, I asked. Yes, said the artist. Yet, Depio's current success is a reconciliation of those conflicting ideologies.
He also joked and commented about the competitive art market, his online thrust and parry with art critics like Dave Hickey and Jerry Saltz, and spoke on how the design basics are so embedded in his head he uses it like language. "You don't think about the words when you talk, but the idea," said The Gig. That's the same as saying you get the basics in your head so much they are in a constant conversation with your brushes dipped in paint. For show and tell, he brought in a 48 inch X 48 inch painting with him so these students could see real brush strokes. The class was fortunate. Depio agreed to speak weeks ago, and now his new mural in Overton will be dedicated next week. To see that work in progress in his presentation was a powerful connection of pencil to paint.
The class approved the lecture and gave him what has become the class sign of group approval used during project presentations: finger snapping done in the best tradition of bohemian poetry slam hedonism.
Speaking earlier in the semester were street artists Sage Sage and Shawn Gatlin. We also were visited by Clark County Museum adminstrator Mark Hall-Patton. All the speakers shared their interpretation of the basics and how it applies to visual decisions in their work. This is the cool thing about Las Vegas. Artists and administrators do go out of their way to talk art, and all want to help enhance the region's commitment to aesthetics.
As for the students, they were great to work with. I am sure a few will be making design history soon. Finger snaps for all.
(Left) Gig Depio looking at an online portfolio. (Middle) Gig out. Have art, will travel.
(Right) Mark Hall-Patton with t-shirt winner. October 30, 2018.
(Below) "There She Is Art" with "You Killed Me First" at Design152Studio. September 27, 2018.
1 Oct. - 21 Nov. 2018.
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