Sage and pine
“Home means Nevada. Home means the hills. Home means the sage and the pine.”
These words to the state song ring true for artist Erik Holland, who has been painting Nevada landscapes and architecture for the last 10 years. Holland has a new show of his work called Nevada Landmarks on display at the Nevada Historical Society Museum.
Originally a city boy from Chicago, Holland lived in Alaska prior to moving to Nevada. Holland’s enthusiasm for the subtle and striking beauty found in the high desert landscape and the rural towns of the area comes through in his paintings. There’s a warmth to his work in the color palette and treatment of his subjects. A variety of styles can also be detected among the paintings. Some of them have more careful brush work and contain more detail, while others have a more impressionistic feeling to them. Some of the paintings were done from photographs, and others were done plein air.
About a year ago, curator Sheryln Hayes-Zorn asked Holland if he would like to have a show at the Historical Society. Over the course of the year, the idea of what the show would be grew and changed. In its finished form, Nevada Landmarks, a sort of retrospective, containing newer paintings and older work from various collections.
“Erik kept bringing things in, and we just kept playing with it,” says Hayes-Zorn. Eventually they decided to lay the paintings out according to the Highway 50 corridor. The paintings start with Ely and include small towns like Eureka, Austin and Elko, eventually ending up in Reno.
“That’s as close as I ever get to wildlife art,” jokes Holland, referring to a painting of Elko’s Commercial Casino, where the iconic polar bear White King stands guard.
Hayes-Zorn also pulled some photographs from the Historical Society’s collection and displayed them with Holland’s paintings. “It was a nice pairing—to be able to use aspects of our collection for this show,” says Hayes-Zorn. “It’s interesting to see the historic view compared with Erik’s view.”
One painting hanging along the Highway 50 “corridor” stands out from the rest. Not only is it the sole landscape in the group, but it is also one of the larger paintings. It contains a strip of highway in the lower fifth of the frame with a small sign. The rest of the canvas is occupied by a majestic mountain depicted in rosy, purple hues and an expanse of classically dramatic Nevada sky. The brush strokes are hurried and thick, conveying a feeling of immediacy and of the fleeting moment. Holland admits to doing some quick sketching and painting as he sped down the road observing the scene.
“If I had to choose a favorite in this show, it would be this one,” he says. It’s titled “110 MPH on an Aubergine Evening.”
Another small room off of the main gallery contains some of Holland’s landscapes. Most of the landscapes were painted on location, necessitating fast work because of changing light and conditions.
“The landscapes are softer. The colors are more muted,” says Holland, comparing them to the paintings of Nevada architecture. “If someone was to ask me what my first love was, I would say landscape.”
It is somehow fitting that Holland has a show at the Nevada Historical Society. He has a degree in history and is a bit political—he draws political cartoons, ran for mayor, and is an activist for open space.
“This landscape does wonders for the soul,” says Holland. “I fight for what I love.”
His paintings reflect this sentiment and the deep reverence he has for the wide-open spaces of Nevada.