Every year, we invite a different local artist to illustrate the results of our Biggest Little Best of Northern Nevada contest. This year, for the first time, we asked a sculptor. Anthony Arevalo builds assemblages—sculptures built from found objects and raw materials. He's from Dayton and worked at the Reno Bike Project for several years. He also builds functional art objects like lamps and furniture. More of his work can been seen at http://assembledinhouse.blogspot.com.
How did this project work? What was surprising and what were the challenges?
The challenges were “Food & Drink,” for example. A lot of the work that I’ve made has a story or I’m connected to it in some way, and having those specific categories, I wasn’t so connected to that as a theme.
Do you not eat food? Is that the problem?
I do, but it’s not—I don’t know. But that was good, trying to figure out a way that I connect to it and then hopefully have the categories be illustrated in the piece. So, I started with the categories that I had ideas for, and once I started, they were pretty easy to put together. But some of them were like, what the fuck am I going to do for “Personalities”? That was another one. I just had a hard time connecting to some of them, and also knowing that even if I did connect with it, that idea might not come across for a broader, bigger audience.
The Best Of art is usually more representational. I wondered if these more abstract ways of representing these ideas would come across for readers. Did you think about that?
I thought about it a lot. Lisa Kurt and Ron Rash … the work they did was so direct and representational of those things. But I’m not an illustrator. I can tell a story, but sometimes it is more abstract. There’s a lot of symbolism in those stories with the objects that I use. I didn’t feel like I could do that with these pieces, because it can be important to me, and make sense to me, but producing these pieces, is not just for me.
How much did you think about building it as a three-dimensional object that’s going to be shown at a reception event, but also building something that could also work as a two-dimensional image in print?
I thought about them working two-dimensionally over them being shown. There was a lot of back-and-forth taking these things, setting them there, and looking at them. … and remembering where I needed to tell [photographer] Nate [Clark] to shoot them from. But I felt confident as I put them together that they would still work as three-dimensional pieces. … I looked for objects that I felt could be read in a broad sense. The “Outdoors” piece—that’s the one that comes to mind—there’s a campfire and there’s birds—and I think for a lot of people that reads as “Outdoors.” Hopefully. But if I were going to make a piece about, say, an event I shared with someone in the outdoors, it would be totally different.
How do you find objects? What are your sources?
Yard sales, thrift stores. I went to a couple of antique stores this time too, which I don’t normally do. And the wood and steel was all stuff that was getting ready to be thrown away—scraps.
Your methods of working, and the kind of art you do—assemblage art—isn’t something that’s familiar to everybody.
When you talk about assemblage art—to me, it just makes sense. To me that is making art. I remember being in school and the first time I saw Joseph Cornell’s work I was like, that’s it! I love this stuff. Maybe it has something to do with not throwing stuff away ever. I have all this stuff from my childhood, little trinkets and small objects that remind me of something, and I just can’t bring myself to throw them away.