On the flipside

Nolan Preece

Artist and curator Nolan Preece, seen here with one of his photographs of Nevada landscapes, is featured in a solo exhibition in Elko during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Artist and curator Nolan Preece, seen here with one of his photographs of Nevada landscapes, is featured in a solo exhibition in Elko during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Photo By David Robert

Think of your favorite laid-back uncle, give him a kind of sensitive farmer/cowboy persona, throw in a friendly mustache, and you’ve got Nolan Preece. But after talking with the guy, you realize he’s interested more in intaglio printmaking and F-stops, less in harvesting winter wheat or roping broncos.

Preece is instructor of photography, printmaking and digital editing at Truckee Meadows Community College, as well as the curator of the college’s four art galleries. But he wants you to know he’s still an artist.

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering takes place in Elko at the end of this month. Concurrently, a solo exhibition of Preece’s photography called Nevada Photographs will be held at the Northeastern Nevada Museum in the Nevada town four hours from Reno. Preece is a 2007 Nevada Arts Council Visual Arts Fellowship recipient, and in return for receiving this $5,000 award, he has been asked to share his art with the public in some kind of outreach. This exhibition in Elko is that outreach.

Not a cowboy poet himself, Preece’s platinum, silver gelatin and digital photographs feature both deep sweeps of Nevada landscape and the face-to-face intimacy of worn, high desert walls.

“Landscapes present an open spaciousness,” he says. Walls are “the barriers faced head on. Both suggest different challenges in life.”

Concerning technical challenges faced in the darkroom, Preece says, “Platinum prints are rated to last 2,000 years, so I did the series of historic Nevada sites in the year 2000 and printed them on Cranes paper, which is the same that our U.S. currency is printed on.”

In a previous incarnation, he was owner/director of Sun Mountain Artworks, a gallery that lasted for six years in Virginia City. He’s sat on boards for art organizations, including the Comstock Arts Council, Sierra Arts Foundation and St. Mary’s Art Center.

This is an artist that believes in passing on the information he’s learned.

“I think we need more artist/curators,” Preece adds, citing the confidence gained from having a practicing artist’s perspective.

At TMCC, Preece offers a course in Gallery Practice. This class helps students understand how to make a gallery operate smoothly and professionally. Examples of this smoothness have been viewed continually—especially at the college’s professional level gallery. Two shows stand out from the past year, both in TMCC’s Main Gallery: Dean De Cocker’s South of Tawara ("Artistic community,” Dec. 15, 2005), which posed some up-to-the-minute, colorful Plexiglas forms that extended from the walls by steel rod armature. Another was Melissa Haviland’s Choose Your Weapon ("Domestic disturbance,” March 16, 2006), wielded in large-scale, realistic charcoal drawings, accompanied by King Kong-scaled corsage pins strewn in a pile at the gallery floor’s center. The conceptualism of most of these shows has not been of the more tired variety.

How does he do it so well?

“I work by committee, committees work.” This statement humbly hints at the concept that the best ideas are collaborative. “We turn it over to a panel of art professionals,” he says, referring to his galleries’ advisory board. This is in addition to the eight hours per week he spends in phone and e-mail communication with exhibiting artists.

Last year, TMCC celebrated its 100th art show curated by Preece. Seeing things from the flipside can be an invaluable and lasting experience for artists and galleries. Nolan Preece seems to understand this more than anyone.