“Monuments,” an art exhibition showcasing Nevada’s three new National Monuments, opened at the Mesquite Library this week. The exhibition is a refinement of works of the larger show that appeared this spring at the Clark County Sahara Library in Las Vegas.
Images of Tule Springs Fossil Beds, Basin and Range National Monument and Gold Butte National Monument, created by UNLV students and prominent area artists, were produced to introduce the public to the unique and beautiful qualities of each of these distinctive Nevada landscapes.
The gem-sized art display area in the Mesquite Library Café allows space to show about 50 pieces selected from the Sahara exhibition. “Monuments” was formed through the inspiration and collaboration of several nonprofit advocacy groups, UNLV’s photography and graphic arts department, Nevada Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts funding, along with support and assistance of the Clark County Library System.
Like many highly successful endeavors, chance and good luck played a role in the formation of the exhibition. Two years ago, noted nature artist and photographer Sharon K. Schafer was approached to do a display of her exquisite work for the Clark County Libraries.
She was too busy to accept the invitation at that time. She instead passed along the idea to Jim Boone, naturalist and photographer, whose popular birdandhike.com website introduces the world to the wilds of Southern Nevada. Boone conferred with his colleagues at the “friends” organizations for Gold Butte, Basin and Range and Tule Springs Fossil Beds.
The vibrant collaborative effort eventual drew in UNLV professor of photography, Checko Salgado, and his students. Salgado curated the exhibition that includes student photography and marketing projects, sculpture, and artist entries submitted for a public competition run for the exhibition.
The students were led on several fields trips to the monuments where they were introduced to their artistic subject: the stunning beauty of the desert and all its elements.
The expeditions opened student eyes and minds to Nevada sights many had never heard of. The photographic and artistic interpretations they created now provide a window for others to glimpse the beauty of Nevada’s public lands through this display at the Mesquite Library.
“Monuments” officially opened in Mesquite on Aug. 21 with a public reception hosted by Friends of Gold Butte. An enthusiastic crowd gathered as Friends of Gold Butte Executive Director Jaina Moan welcomed all to view and take inspiration from the display of photos, paintings and sculptures.
Boone, who is involved in both the Gold Butte and Basin and Range organizations, provided insights into features of the monuments as well as discussing some of the work being done by the groups to support preservation, recreation, and respectful use of the monuments.
The exhibition’s signature artwork, a dazzling desert night scene, was painted by Fawn Douglas, a member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. Since graduating from UNLV, she has joined the faculty there as an instructor of American Indian-Indigenous Studies. She is quoted in the exhibition catalog expressing the importance of the monuments to her, “We, as Paiutes, as Nevadans, are defenders of the sacred. Our ancestors whisper to us, it’s up to us to carry the message.”
Mary Manning, one of the participating artists, was on hand to talk about her two paintings of Gold Butte and Tule Springs which are highlighted with metallic paint and foil. She works out of Kayenta, Utah, and has shown her work at the Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery.
During the reception, Sharon Schafer briefly outlined her ongoing Two Deserts/OneSky project that connects elementary students in Rajasthan, India, and Las Vegas through exchange of photographs and stories of the Great Indian Desert and the Mojave Desert.
Those deserts lie at similar latitudes, producing an opportunity for students to compare their natural and cultural surroundings with other students half a world away. Schafer leads frequent art and cultural tours to points throughout the world. She is an ardent advocate of promoting global environmental education through fine art, photography, and science. Her work can be seen
The “Monuments” exhibition runs through Sept. 29 at the Mesquite Library, 100 W. First North. The free display is open to the public during regular library hours, Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., and Sunday 1 to 4:45 p.m.