The great outdoors

Art of the Outdoors takes a surprisingly broad look at nature

“Nevada Ghosts” by David Dory.

“Nevada Ghosts” by David Dory.

Photo By David Robert

No two people experience nature in the same way. Some look to nature’s details to uncover her secrets; others contemplate her beauty in a more holistic way. Some enjoy gardening; others prefer scaling mountains.

The most voracious nature lovers engage the great outdoors in a way that can only be described as spiritual. For many of its more casual fans, however, nature is a pleasant distraction from urban life, like a walk in the park or a visit to the city zoo.

And some like to enhance their experience of the great outdoors while indoors—in the art gallery, for example. Art of the Outdoors, now on display at the New Medium Art Gallery, boasts a dynamic, varied look at nature. The show, says gallery publicist Butch Lynn, is not your typical nature art exhibition. It’s broader in scope, encompassing far more than landscape. The artists’ subjects range from the tame and elegant, such as flowers, to the powerful and feral, such as David Dory’s wild mustangs.

At 14 feet by 6 feet, Dory’s impressive “Nevada Ghosts” is a moving, darkly beautiful tribute to the Lockwood mustangs killed in 1999. Wild and magnificent, the four horses are shown at full gallop. Overhead is an ominous sky of solid charcoal gray; below, a dust cloud whirls at the horses’ hooves. The solid gray provides a powerful contrast to the painting’s chaotic lower half.

Moving on to the peaceful, the plein air works of Dan MacInnis reveal the quiet, unassuming side of Nevada’s beauty. In “Last Light,” as in many of his works, MacInnis uses a thick, impressionistic brushstroke and a rich shade of gold to capture the warmth of the late afternoon sun. At the painting’s center, MacInnis layers his oils into a pool of gold—a glowing, swirling sunlit surface. Trees stand on either side of the sunlit area, their leafy branches pointing toward the pool. Similarly, the long shadows surrounding the pool look like fingers pointing toward the light.

Butch Lynn says that the art community calls Valerie Estvan “The Rock Star,” and it’s not surprising. No artist I’ve seen makes rocks look as vivid and alive as she. In “Jacks Valley Guardian,” individual rock clusters are piled one atop the other. But this is not just a boring pile of rocks. The rocks, with their exaggerated musculature and pinkish-brown coloring, seem almost flesh-like, and the formation in its entirety looks powerful and formidable, even triumphant.

Perhaps John Parsons, owner of the New Medium Art Gallery, and his apprentice, Donald Clay, have the most unusual approach to the outdoors. Using hot glue as his medium, Clay’s landscapes have a flagrantly artificial, almost storybook sort of appeal. The green, gray and blue shapes of “Rollins Lake” turn out to be hills and a lake, but the landscape is only discernable after a few seconds of observation.

Parsons’ one work on exhibit, “Kya,” is a hot glue portrait of a lioness cub. Parson has translated the cub’s stripes into a lively yet organized pattern of curvy yellow and white shapes. Black lines spread like a fan through the portrait, adding a third type of stripe to the pattern. Unless one views the work straight on, one can barely see the cub’s head lurking in the beautiful, colorful pattern.

No matter your relationship with nature, whether you prefer the rugged outdoors or backyard flowers, wild horses or adorable lioness cubs, Art of the Outdoors probably has a piece that speaks to that relationship.