Stranger things have happened
The Stranger Show
The Stranger Show currently on display at the Holland Project Gallery proves that sometimes it’s strangers who help us discover hidden parts of ourselves.
Harnessing the power of mentorship—which research says boosts school performance, self-esteem and graduation rates, among other benefits—the Holland Project set out six years ago to pair high-school art students with working artists. In partnership with Nevada Museum of Art and Hug High School, Holland budgets $75 per pair and one unifying theme—strange. The pairs work for a month to produce pieces that are then showcased in the gallery space.
The annual exhibit started with an opening night reception Oct. 23, where a jury of three professionals—UNR arts faculty member Tamara Scronce, Emily Rogers of the Sierra Arts Foundation, and Pam Patterson from the Nevada Museum of Art—awarded a Best in Show award. Attendees chose first and second place Audience Choice awards.
It’s hard to measure the value of such professional guidance for students, not to mention getting real estate on gallery walls. But the artist/mentors reap benefits as well.
Illustrator and award-winning filmmaker Kaleb Temple worked with student Ivan Chaves to produce a pencil-on-canvas illustration that literally merges the two artists. Titled “The Biggest Little Stranger,” it’s a sort of self-portrait of the third artist, the “stranger” who’s a mix of Temple’s facial features (glasses, beard) and Chaves’ (hair, piercings). He’s surrounded by symbols of his creators—a Reno arch, a Guatemalan Virgin Mary who represents Chaves’ heritage, film strips representing Temple’s love of movies.
“When Ivan would come to work, he was really focused and into it,” says Temple. “His teacher would tell me that when he came to school, he worked really hard and was so stoked.”
Former public school teacher Jaime Lynn Shafer is a full-time artist working in book arts. She says that through the experience of mentoring Hug senior Jackie Martinez, she got the opportunity to explore her new hometown, while Martinez gained a greater understanding of how it’s possible to make a living through art.
The two spent a couple of days roaming the streets of Reno, taking photos for a photo collage. “We wanted something local, something people didn’t necessarily take the time to look at anymore or something you would stop seeing because it’s so commonplace,” says Shafer.
The result was two collages—“Circus Curcus,” an exploration of downtown’s iconic neon clown, and “Stranger/Acquaintance,” which turns the wisdom of “don’t talk to strangers” on its ear.
“We headed toward the baseball stadium and this character sort of jumped out at us into our photos and started making strange poses,” Shafer says. “We ended up chatting with him and loving the shots we got with him, and it fit the theme of ’stranger.’ We had so much fun with the photos of him and reminiscing about how easy it is to talk to people when you have a goal or mission in mind, even if you’re shy.”
UNR fine arts graduate Amy Aramanda worked with student Anahi Lopez to produce a mixed-media work titled “Pain is Beauty,” which explores the idea that pain can be beautiful, in its own strange way, by strengthening us and encouraging us to grow. The painted portrait cut from paper, rather than framed, weeps lovely, delicate paper flower tears.
“I showed her a few new techniques, but mostly it was about me encouraging her not to worry too much about messing up,” Aramanda says. “I enjoyed being with someone who was similar to me but who had new ideas and was willing to try anything.”