Community collage

Joan Arrizabalaga, Christine Pinney Karkow and Edw Martinez

This is an assemblage sculpture by Edw Martinez.

This is an assemblage sculpture by Edw Martinez.

When a new year begins, we generally feel the urge to pare down, to throw out the assorted odds and ends we’ve accumulated and start with a clean slate. But for some, our cast-offs are an opportunity. It’s these folks that will be celebrated at the Haldan Art Gallery at Lake Tahoe Community College’s first group exhibit, Putting It Together, featuring collage and assemblage works by three Reno artists.

“Collage and assemblage really came on the scene in the early 20th century,” explains Phyllis Shafer, gallery director and LTCC Art Department chair. “A lot of artists have used collage to make political statements. I think it really started with Dada, which was about nonsense, and artists asking, ‘Why should we make bronze statues or oil paintings on canvas, which is part of tradition, when the world’s leaders are acting in bizarre ways to bring about mayhem?'”

While outright protest may not be on the minds of these artists, Shafer believes that their work pushes boundaries. “I think our Tahoe audience will find this is really outside the bounds of what many of them think art is.”

The artists involved are textile artist Joan Arrizabalaga, photographer and painter Christine Pinney Karkow, and sculptor and former University of Nevada, Reno art professor Edw Martinez. They each make a unique contribution to the language of collage and assemblage.

Arrizabalaga’s pieces, composed primarily of fabrics, tend to incorporate playing card imagery in the most unlikely of places. One, now hanging at the Siena Hotel, Spa and Casino, features the Last Supper represented as a craps table, with Jesus himself as dealer. One piece she’ll have at the LTCC show is a metal slot machine composed of found objects.

“I keep everything, assuming someday it’ll be part of a sculpture,” she says. “So the slot machine is actually the old fusebox from my house—it was so neat-looking I couldn’t throw it away.”

While Christine Pinney Karkow doesn’t consider herself a photographer, the work she’ll be exhibiting is primarily photography collage. “The photographs are just bits of information I pick up. I use them like you might use paint, and combine them to make new images on the computer.”

Her focus is the built environment—the unremarkable one. “People think that living here, we’re surrounded by mountains, but most of us spend our time surrounded by these ugly buildings.” Through Karkow’s lens, all meaning we might attach to these structures is stripped away as they’re reduced to their basic geometry.

Edw Martinez insists that he is neither a “pre-Columbian” artist nor is he making any statement about abortion with his unusual doll head pieces.

“I like to keep things open-ended, because people see what they want to see,” he says. “One thing just leads to another … I occasionally tell people that I throw shit on the floor and call it art.”

His joke reveals a truth: Martinez’s work is more about the process than the final product. Hired by the University of Nevada 30 years ago to teach printmaking courses, Martinez only recently revisited clay as a medium. Having found a copper doll mold at an antique store, he began experimenting with casting doll heads, adding them to a variety of shapes and sculptures, or creating piles, or cairns. He now has about 1,200 doll heads sitting around his house, and the approximately 30 cheap, hard-sided Samsonite suitcases he purchased to transport them have even become part of his work.