Hard acts to follow

Rural Circus: Become the Absurd

Rural Circus: Become the Absurd is on exhibit through June 26 at the Main Gallery at Truckee Meadows Community College, 7000 Dandini Blvd.

Reno artists Marti Bein and Joan Arrizabalaga have been conceiving eccentric art experiences in Reno. They work together with Sutter and Samantha Stremmel, owners of The Wedge Ceramics Studio, consciously ignoring the norms of art exhibitions. The group calls itself Wedge Outside the Box and presents shows that are quirky and inclusive, showcasing the fun and collaborative parts of art and creativity.

They’ve hosted a few notable shows this year—one called It’s About Time, a multimedia display of clocks and time colloquialisms come to life. It showed in March at Wedge. In January, they hosted a show in the Student Galleries South at University of Nevada, Reno, Beverly and Her Stuff, for which 40 artists who work in different media designed outfits for a life-sized paper doll named Beverly.

“I think [the shows] are successful because they’re funny and fun,” said Bein. “It gets you outside the box, which is kind of what we wanted, to think like you don’t normally think, to make work you would never, ever consider making and see it up in a gallery space.”

Arrizabalaga, a reputable Reno sculptor and Bein’s partner for the shows, said that Wedge Outside the Box is artist-driven, and artists don’t have to be famous. Sometimes shows include artwork by teenagers or schoolteachers. The group doesn’t spend time courting grant funders or sponsorships for the exhibitions. In fact, they ask the featured artists to pay $10 to cover the costs of opening night at the shows, which have been well attended.

“People don’t know what’s going to happen next with these shows,” said Arrizabalaga. “You don’t really know what you’re going to get. It’s not predictable in any way, and people aren’t trying to be really precious about it either. It’s just fun.”

Their current show, Rural Circus: Become the Absurd, is on display in the Main Gallery at Truckee Meadows Community College. The wild visual project includes over 25 artists. Dozens of pieces line the walls and the floor.

Bein said she’d imagined how a child would do a circus at home. She and Arrizabalaga sought inspiration from their own childhood memories of doing plays and dressing up animals. They even attended the Kerak Shrine Circus when it was in town in March. They shared all that infomation in their call for artists, a word-of-mouth affair.

The works make up a casually quirky show of paintings, installations, sculptures, photographs, videos, prints and mixed media combinations that are truly peculiar and remarkable takes on the circus. There’s a 3-D, step-by-step diagram of Barbie demonstrating the human cannonball trick. There’s a parade of animal crackers. You can see a pair of conjoined twins, attached at the hair. A traveling troupe of Mormon crickets performing a sideshow from inside an antique suitcase is especially appealing.

Wedge Outside The Box doesn’t focus heavily on marketing, but the group is worth keeping an eye on for other eclectic showcases at TMCC and Wedge in September—and a show in January, 2018 at UNR themed aorund Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s The City of Trembling Leaves, a 1945 novel set in Reno.

“Things come to you after you get this weird concept going,” said Arrizabalaga. “Then you think of all these weird things, [and] you have to do it.”