Lynda Yuroff & Walter McNamara
Out of Context, on display through Aug. 1 at the McKinley Arts & Culture Center, is actually two exhibitions intertwined. The first is Lynda Yuroff’s Sagewood Fictions: a collection of wood panel paintings and carvings that incorporate found objects, specifically pieces of sage wood the artist discovered on hikes. The other exhibition is Walter McNamara’s The Beer Chronicles, which also incorporates found objects—in this case, old beer cartons, which are combined with other found images to create startling and funny collages.
The two exhibitions are not partitioned in the arts center’s east and west galleries, but instead interspersed together throughout both galleries. And the two distinct shows are strengthened by the close association. Hanging the works together highlights the way in which both artists use found objects, taken out of context and given new life, and a strong commonality of color palette and subject matter. Both artists make references to water and landscapes affected by water—carved rivers, polished stones—as well as desert plants. Yuroff recasts the sage wood as clouds, trees or aquatic life. McNamara uses beer packages, often covered in unnatural silvery foil, and recasts them in collage format to evoke natural environments and landscapes.
McNamara and Yuroff have been partners in life and art since 1978, although they rarely, if ever, collaborate directly. They’re both well respected, even beloved, local artists who have exhibited work extensively throughout the valley and the region for the last five or six decades. McNamara was the curator of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery from 1964 to 1992. The couple didn’t necessarily conceive of these works with the intention of integrating them, but they agree that the works hang together with unusual harmony.
“This work is more interrelated than what we’ve done in the past just because of the materials and using found objects,” said Yuroff.
“For years and years I’ve been collecting collage materials, and I had collected a lot of earlier beer materials,” McNamara said. “Cartons used to be—back a few years, 15, 20 years ago—they were much richer. I think they were obviously spending more money making them.”
His collages are laid out in a grid pattern, and the titles and some of the imagery also relate to drinking beer. In “Keep it Cool in the Pool,” for example, images of golden beer, flowing like a river, are intercut with images of swimming pools.
“Rockey Mt. High at the Lake” depicts a landscape with a silver and red sky made from old Coors packaging. In one corner is the top of an unidentifiable person’s head, what McNamara calls an “anonymous forehead,” a way to include a human element without representing a specific individual.
Yuroff focuses on another material a less attentive eye might dismiss: dead wood.
“I’ve noticed that old, dried sage wood often has the same texture and movement as water or clouds,” she said. “Our show is called Out of Context. By taking these things out of their environment and putting them into the context of a painting, your imagination works in the context of what you see, and it’s transformed.”
Her piece “Big Fish” includes a magnified depiction of the Devils Hole pupfish, sometimes called the world’s rarest fish, which is only found in one tiny geothermal pool in Nevada just east of Death Valley. The attached pieces of sage wood seem to drift across the fish like waves.
For McNamara, there’s an added attraction to exhibiting work at McKinley, a place he was familiar with in its previous incarnation.
“I actually went to school here,” he said. “This is the second time I’ve shown here and when we were asked to do a show, it was just kind of automatic, because it was a very pleasant school.”