Reduce, recycle, re … blow?

Left Behind

Walter McNamara took the organic approach to items left behind in his “Rocker/Ghost Skull Series.”

Walter McNamara took the organic approach to items left behind in his “Rocker/Ghost Skull Series.”

Photo By David Robert

There’s something gratifying about being able to reuse something—you know, new life, reincarnation. A sense of resourcefulness and creativity comes with turning something old into something new. But some things may be better left behind. Like boogers, for example, or ear wax.

That didn’t stop Reno artist Max Ezra in the Western Nevada Community College group exhibit Left Behind, a show of various local artists guest-curated by Chad Sorg. The first works a visitor sees upon stepping into the college’s new main gallery are two curved jars entitled “Scabs” and “Dandruff.” (Two guesses as to what’s inside those jars.) Beside them are rows of dozens of Q-Tips with waxy brown ends standing upright on a small white board; the piece is called “Army of Earwax.” Then, for Ezra’s pièce de resistance, a frame the size of your bedroom door holds about 20 squares of paper towels. The work’s title is “Muccosa,” which makes stomach-churningly clear what those crusty, brownish-yellow smears on the crumpled bits of paper towels could be. Flecks of blood were an especially nice touch. Ezra must have been purposely placing himself in front of people with colds to execute this work.

The friend who accompanied me had this high-art critique of it: “Dude, I’m sick.”

Then again, the only real criteria for this show was that the work be made of something that’s been used before—Ezra wholeheartedly ascribed to the notion. And despite there being many other talented artists in this show, Ezra’s work (for the freak factor alone), while the hardest to look at, was also the hardest to forget.

On the other end of the organic art spectrum are the bone and wood sculptures of noted local artist Walter McNamara. In “Rocker/Ghost Skull Series,” the horn from a longhorn sheep joins seamlessly with curvy, twisted wood that’s been painted white, giving it the effect of being bleached like a bone in the sun. Wood and bone join to create what looks like the skull of a long-extinct animal mounted on the wall. The gallery’s lighting creates the shadow of a one-horned Medussa behind it. Other “Ghost Bone” works are propped beside it, with two jointed bones bookending a whitewashed piece of wood. These pieces are starkly barren and quietly beautiful.

The organic gives way to the urban with the other artists’ works. Sorg took a billboard-sized, corroded old Safeco auto insurance sign and mounted it on wood. He also used found objects to create what looks like a rusty hippo half submerged in water in “America Flats Glut.”

RN&R contributor Kris Vagner ran rows of giant silver pushpins vertically up the wall in “Physical Manifestation of Indeterminate Certainty I.” She also played tricks with ‘Levity” by balancing bricks atop a tightly stacked column of (somehow reinforced) pennies measuring about 4 feet tall.

Christine Karkow made a wall of cardboard “bricks,” and Tamara Scronce’s cocoons of toilet paper and wire dangle from the ceiling.

Melding the natural and the manmade, Elaine Parks used delicate combinations of wood, shell, bone and metal shaped to resemble titles like “Heart,” “Tree” and “Pelican.”

Left Behind accompanies a WNCC exhibit called Recycled (Art)icles, in which student and local artists made action-figure-sized works like mice, robots, birds, and dinosaurs using recycled junk—old shovels, wrenches, mirrors and clockworks. Both exhibits show that art can be found and reborn in the darnedest places—even your bathroom trashcan.