The West is the best

Painting the West

Charles Muench’s paintings are part of the <i>Painting the West </i>exhibit.

Charles Muench’s paintings are part of the Painting the West exhibit.

Photo/Ashley Hennefer

The open reception for Painting the West is on Nov. 20, 5-7 p.m., at Stremmel Gallery, 1400 S. Virginia St. The exhibit is open until Dec. 20. For more information, check out

Nevada’s landscape has inspired thousands of artists and wayward wanderers throughout its history. And while different mediums—like photography, sculpture and poetry—capture unique details of the state’s varied ecosystems, few can replicate the depth and diversity of it like a painting.

That’s the philosophy behind Stremmel Gallery’s newest exhibition, Painting the West, according to gallery director Turkey Stremmel. Painting the West is a group show featuring Nevada painters Ron Arthaud, Jean LeGassick, Craig Mitchell, Charles Muench and Jeff Nicholson.

“You get a lot of distance [with painting],” Stremmel says. “You can set the foreground, and set the background, and produce something with the breadth and the depth of Nevada.”

An opening reception is Nov. 20 at the gallery. The show was born out of a desire to have a Nevada-focused exhibit, and Stremmel says finding the perfect artists was a straightforward process.

“We’ve known of them for quite a while,” Stremmel says of the featured artists. “We wanted to do a Nevada show, and we wanted artists who were able to best paint Nevada.”

As plein-air painters—which means the artists do their painting outside using the landscape as a guide—they use materials like oil and acrylics. Many similarities emerge from the exhibit as a whole, but each artist employs different painting techniques and has between 15-20 pieces featured in the show. What becomes apparent almost immediately is the presence of color, the shades that represent the landscape throughout the state. Neutral earth tones are punctuated by pops of blue, green or red. Some artists, including Nicholson and Muench, choose to highlight man-made structures like neon signs or vehicles. And the energy changes from piece to piece; for instance, the quick brushstrokes in LeGassick’s “Fall in the Air” bring to mind the blustery winds of autumn, while Mitchell’s “Dry Wash” feels quiet and tranquil.

“There’s a common thread already, but every artist handles it differently,” says Stremmel.

The inaugural Painting the West show was held in the spring of 2013, and Stremmel says the event was such a success that the gallery was eager to host it again.

“The show features all new, fresh paintings,” she says. “It’s absolutely an incredible statement about Nevada.”

For the artists, participating in the show meant having the opportunity to explore familiar landscapes through new eyes.

“There’s a lot of beauty in Nevada that’s not readily apparent,” says Muench. “It doesn’t beat you over the head with it, and you have to take a closer look at it.”

Muench, a classically trained painter who has studied around the world, has 19 pieces featured in Painting the West. Almost all of the work was created specifically for the show. Muench has spent more than a decade painting rural Nevada and the Eastern Sierra Range—“my two passions,” he says. Some of his paintings feature human structures like buildings or cars, while others focus on the weather and the geographical landmarks.

Muench lived in Markleeville, California, for 13 years before moving to Gardnerville.

“I’m immersed in the landscape that inspires me,” he says. “I spent some time in rural Nevada, up and down, exploring these empty, lonely, wonderful towns.”

He says working with other Nevada artists helps uncover some of the overlooked beauty and scenery the region has to offer.

“I think the theme of the show, and this isn’t a spoken theme, is the stark beauty of open spaces shown in these beautiful paintings,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to see a wide variety of the talent available here.”