I went to the Nevada Museum of Art the other day to see Van Gogh, so naturally I spent two hours wandering everywhere else. If you’ve ever been to the museum (and if you haven’t, you really need to go), you know that there is a huge number of rooms spread out over three floors–four if you count the roof gallery, but that was empty now–with a variety of themes and mediums that range all over the spectrum. I took to the stairs, promising that I would lightly browse elsewhere; I was on a mission to find Van Gogh, but the other rooms beckoned–as they always do–and I immersed myself in the many worlds of art.
The first floor: a Nevada theme. Varied mediums that reflect the beauty of Nevada’s culture and environment, done throughout the time by natives and visitors, too. I’ll admit, I’m not particularly moved by works done about deserts, as it’s something I see quite a lot, but a few pieces were truly great. For instance, there was The Woodpile, by Jacob Getlar Smith, done in 1937. It is soft and fogy, making me feel like I was lounging against a tree in some Southern shade. Had I seen this before? I sat on the bench across the painting, immersed in its mystique writing in my journal (which always seems to make other people nervous)–this is exactly why I love art.
Down the hall I found myself drawn into what is called the Media Gallery. It is a dark room, which generally has some form of media playing, be it a short film or an animated clip. This exhibit was called Bloom. The room was empty, except for one small couch and a large television on the opposite wall, playing (on mesmerizing repeat) colorful circles; like droplets of water on the surface of an oil spill. I ditched the couch, standing so close to the monitor my mom would cringe. My shadow blocked out a portion of the piece and ruined it; just me in the center of the expanding infinite universe.
Second floor: finally! Van Gogh is here! But not just yet, I wandered down the hallway to the left, compelled to see everything on display. The room wasn’t memorable, but at the end there is a ledge that looks over to the first floor; a sign on the floor that said, “What Would Neil Young Do?” I had missed it the first time around–I knew I came in here for something. I also watched for a while, a young couple who I presumed really got art, because they stayed in each room for quite a while.
The moment of truth: The next exhibit was Van Gogh. I prepared myself the the magnanimity of the situation, took a deep breath, and walked into the room. Disappointment; on the very back wall hung one, lonely painting. It was of Van Gogh, but was it even by him? See, the story goes, that William Goetz, director and art collector, purchased a supposed authentic Van Gogh from a reputable dealer for $50,000, but the authenticity was for some reason challenged. The exhibit–rather than being the collection of paintings I had hoped for–turned out to be more of a murder-mystery-style set up, debating whether or not the painting was truly Van Gogh. Really?
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t bitter about the let-down, but I wandered the room hoping to find something worthwhile. Is that samba music I hear? Strange, I thought, to put samba music with Van Gogh, so I followed it, looking for the source. I walked to the door, the sound getting louder, and looked out: there was a snowcone machine! Set up outside the exhibit, as a part of the El Museo del Barrio partner gallery; now that’s my kind of art. There was color, and sound, formal art and simple street style all in one place. I went inside.
I had a few favorites, one of which was a large grouping of flip-flops, arranged in multiple circles inside of themselves. They were all an aqua-blue color, but instead of having plastic straps, they were all constructed with barbed-wire (ouch!). Then, on one entire wall, there was the cardboard signs of a street-side artist, who spends his time outside of Tiffany’s in New York City. Each sign was clever and ironic, making a stab at mass culture, or some political issue, or just being a struggling actor. My favorite sign? Make Tacos Not War.
I love the Nevada Museum of Art, and every time I go there’s something new for me to gush over. I love the mix of traditional and modern art, of locals and artists from all around. It is a rich art environment that always inspires me, and reminds me of the value and perfection of art. I may have been disheartened by the presentation of Van Gogh, but there was so much else to look at, I hardly noticed. A big gallery for a small city; how can we be so lucky?