House party

GASA, Reinventing History

Manuel Alfaro, Jen Graham and Jeremy Stern at the GASA House, soon to be covered in art.

Manuel Alfaro, Jen Graham and Jeremy Stern at the GASA House, soon to be covered in art.

Photo By Brad Bynum

The Graduate Art Students Association, whose acronym and logo borrow from an old NASA logo, is a club for University of Nevada, Reno MFA students. UNR’s MFA program is only a few years old, and the student organization is even newer. It didn’t start until the fall of 2008.

“We started talking about it almost as a joke,” says GASA president Jeremy Stern. “There were only eight of us in the program. It seemed almost redundant to have a club.”

But Stern says the student organization provides bridges between the sometimes insular world of the university art department and Reno’s art scene and the community at large.

“We can always add more to the community as MFA students,” says Stern. “If we want to be professional artists, that’s what we’re here to do.”

The art department helped GASA obtain the Lucy Neider GASA House, near Evans Park, just south of the UNR campus. Stern and another MFA candidate, Manuel Alfaro, currently reside there.

“Normally, it’s a house, but next Thursday it’s going to be a gallery,” says Jen Graham, a Reno artist who is curating an exhibit titled Reinventing History for the house.

On Jan. 28, Stern and Alfaro will move all their furniture and belongings to their bedrooms to make room for a large exhibition of work by some of Reno’s best and brightest artists.

Graham asked a diverse array of artists—from UNR faculty, like Tamara Scronce, to tattoo artists, like Elijah Cole, to undergraduate artists, like Amerique Powell—to contribute work based on the theme of reinventing history.

“My brother and sister and I were talking about our earliest memories,” says Graham. “And I’m not sure what my earliest memory is. I’m not sure what I actually remember and what I only remember from a story or a photograph.”

The subjective, intangible quality of memory is something that also imbues our understanding of history, and this could be an inspiration for artists—or a challenge.

“A themed show pulls people away from what they might normally do,” says Graham.

Alfaro’s painting for the exhibit depicts an Aztec deity. Connecting to the show’s theme, he says it was inspired by an alternative history in which the Aztec Empire defeated Hernán Cortéz and thwarted the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

The artworks range from photography to painting to sculpture, and Stern, Alfaro and Graham promise a few surprises, as well. There’s a rumor, for example, that Amelia Earhart will be making a personal appearance.

The exhibition will be a one-night-only affair. This is partly because GASA is a functional home, and partly because many art fans only come to view work at opening receptions anyway. But Stern says if someone wants to view the work at some other time, they can schedule an appointment by emailing <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,103,97,115,97,46,117,110,114,64,103,109,97,105,108,46,99,111,109,34,62,103,97,115,97,46,117,110,114,64,103,109,97,105,108,46,99,111,109,60,47,97,62)) } </script>.

Though her husband, Ahren Hertel, will have a piece in the show, Graham herself, in a selfless display of good taste, is not including any of her own artwork. Often, when artists curate shows, it’s just an excuse to promote their own stuff, so her restraint is commendable.

Other artists in the exhibit include Rebekah Bogard, Chris Carnel, Michael Sarich, Michael Modene, Nick Larson, Dominique Palladino and former RN&R staff photographer Lauren Randolph. But wait! There’s more! Christopher Umana, Ron Rash, Anthony Alston … the list goes on.