Critters floating among portraits of the female gaze must have a story behind it, but this artist Su Limbert wants the viewer to author what those dreams may be. With feminine moxy she throws out this question: “Is it ecstasy or are they dying?” It’s a fun dare for those who will see her new solo show, “Forevermore,” at Trifecta Gallery. “It’s all interconnected, opened ended, and ambiguous, intentionally,” Limbert says. “To articulate it could destroy it.”
It opens July 31, but ideas started the day after Trifecta Gallery owner Marty Walsh confirmed she was set for August. “I had a picture in my head,” Limbert recalls. “That was a year ago when I saw the space.”
Beside wood creatures on the wall, the show features portraits of women with don’t-come-hither poses. “I always use animals and people to communicate what is cyclical in life,” she said.
After months of assembling, sanding, and painting the individual pieces connected together in the space working as a site-specific installation. Limbert dropped off the new works with friendly darkness a week ago and Walsh was delighted to see she went beyond what was expected. “Bad dreams in Candy Land,” said Walsh.
In all her work, there is folk art informality that comes from visual references Limbert saw while traveling through Mississippi during her childhood. She recalls seeing the yard art, hand painted signs with genuine messages, all seemingly connected by overgrown moss or kudzu, and some have religious driven reverence. “Art with divine light talking through them,” she said. “I’m driven, but it’s not God speaking through my art…that I know of.”
Those rural forms of public art are also desert highway staple, since arriving to Las Vegas means spending time on open roads. “My references to public art isn’t Alexander Calder or anything like that,” she said. “It’s the kitschy things that are landmarks in rural towns that people relate to. There’s a sentiment in those markers of place.”
Art in view of the public is part of Limbert’s regional portfolio. In 2012, she installed the East Side Project window for the Las Vegas Contemporary Art Center (CAC). “Public art should do all that art can do, not just one thing. It should be accessible. That’s what I liked about the CAC window.”
Public access to art has the artist not always use a direct narrative, or a message, “but to create an experience,” she said. “Just exposing people who don’t go into galleries to other ways of being and thinking.”
The window installation at CAC window helped her work get attention. Her first solo shows were held at BlackBird Studios, then in 2012 Limbert was named one of the next 10 emerging artists by Las Vegas City Life. In 2013, she and Sierra Slentz were artists-in-residency for Cosmopolitan's P3 studios that featured a hand carved 5-foot bear covered in hand-made ceramic objects, giving the sculpture an aesthetic coat of found objects (The bear is now part of the permanent collection). And there is a ceramic mural for Winchester Culture Center, being in a number of groups shows including “Next Exit: Route 66 at Springs Preserve, plus teaching art for 12 years.
While doing final prep work on Sunday, Limbert was sharing stories about her grandparents while shaking a canister of pink paint. Each time she revealed something, her hand shaking up the paint would stop in mid-air to emphasize a point, but then she moved on before revealing any mystery to herself.
Her art is like that. There’s just enough to prompt a story, which is something else that draws from those childhood road trips. When you drive by roadside folk public art and you are not at the wheel, you don’t get to choose to make a stop to ask about something you see. You make up your own story. Besides, if do ask a roadside artist what the message was, there’s an obligation to accept their meaning.
If you need a prompt, just refer to Limbert saying “Forevermore” is about: “Nature and man, as generic as that is, finding a retreat.” Know there’s more adventure in writing your own tale.