On the road

Erik Lauritzen

Photographs by Erik Lauritzen hang at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Photographs by Erik Lauritzen hang at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Photo By Nick Higman

Erik Lauritzen’s childhood passed under the supervision of artist-parents. While an adolescent and young man, he delved first into music and later into the visual arts. As he approached middle age, Lauritzen devoted himself to arts education and the photography that graces the walls of the Nevada Museum of Art today.

Though his exhibition had been scheduled for quite some time, it is now imbued with a bittersweet tone because Lauritzen, a professor emeritus at Truckee Meadows Community College, passed away a year ago, at the age of 54.

“He was such an inquisitive person,” said Susan Boskoff of the Nevada Arts Council. “His nature was to explore the world through his camera.”

The exhibit, Stop the Car, Dad!, documenting Lauritzen’s road trips throughout the West, is outstanding. In fact, while the NMA might not be thrilled to hear it, the Lauritzen exhibition overshadows the more expensive Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit down the hall. The 20 or so pieces, elegantly displayed on the north end of the third floor, easily justify your 10 bucks admittance.

Stop the Car, Dad! is part of the NMA’s Art and Environment Series. Miriam Stanton, exhibition coordinator at the NMA, explained the appeal of Lauritzen’s work: “[The photographs] are really about the transitory existence of our presence in the landscape,” she said.

The photographs demonstrate our transitory nature and, at turns, our irony and humor and sorrow.

“Have a Flat” is displayed on the hallway wall leading to the north gallery and is one of the first Lauritzen photographs an NMA visitor will see. The foreground shows a gravelly dirt lot, and the background shows a weathered double-wide mobile home flanked by very old power poles. Sitting right in the middle, a giant, neglected billboard proclaims “Tire Repair.” Evidently, this desolate part of Nevada mattered at one point.

A few feet down the wall, “Gas” illustrates just how antiquated the not very distant past can seem. Spread before a cloudless, bright blue sky and sitting in a bowl of dust and sagebrush, three giant fuel tanks proclaim “regular,” “diesel” and “unleaded.” It wasn’t that long ago when “regular” meant you were putting lead in the tank.

“Spelling?” brings out the lighter side of decay. Lauritzen took this picture while standing inside of a partly demolished building, with a window on one side and a piece of graffiti written by a spelling-challenged philosophy fan: “He who has a why to live for can bare almost any how—Nietshe”

Around the corner, Lauritzen reverses the comic tone of “Spelling?” with “Little Angels.” A cemetery filled with cute, wooden flowers and child-made gravestones sits grotesquely behind a sign reading “God’s Little Angels” and in front of a giant McDonald’s. The effect is chilling.