Wild at art

Erik Holland

Photo By David Robert

Erik Holland is an artist, political cartoonist and high school art teacher known for his paintings of Nevada towns. Over the last year, he’s been traveling with the Nevada Wilderness Project and painting some of the areas the group is trying to preserve. Holland’s townscape and protected-landscape paintings form the exhibit, From Tahoe to Tonopah II, on display at Patagonia, 8550 White Fir St., until Nov. 25. For information about the Nevada Wilderness Project, visit www.wildnevada.org.

How’d you get involved with the Nevada Wilderness Project as an artist?

I volunteered years ago to help put aside the Black Rock [Desert] as a conservation area, so that’s how I got to know them. I saw their bumper sticker: “I like my beer cold, my music loud and my state wild.” I called them up immediately. I just connected to that. After that, I did political cartoons for them, and one day, the founder of the project, John Wallen, said, “Oh, we should have an art show.” And then I said, “Yes, we should.” And so we had an art show a year ago, which was successful. And what it’s evolving into is, I travel with the project, and I paint the places they’re trying to save.

They do wilderness trips—and anyone can go on them—to acquaint the public with the areas they’re trying to preserve. And so I tagged along on three or four of them this year. I had a sketchbook, I did some painting on-site, and then I did some painting in the studio.

What were other people doing while you’re sketching?

They’re usually hiking. I usually get a little hiking in, too. Then we all sit around and write letters to the editor and letters to politicians about how great the place is.

Is it working to keep these places protected?

Yes. They have a very good track record. In fact, we’re working on a wilderness bill for eastern Nevada right now. … We’ve been able to set aside some sites in southern Nevada, the Irish Mountains, Mormon Mountains, places like that were set aside.

Did you see anything new while you were working on this project?

Oh my God! I’ve seen places like Big Den Canyon. That’s just awesome, and nobody knows where it is.

Is it a secret, or can you tell me where it is?

I can tell you vaguely. I was there, but I was too busy trying to hold on on that road to notice which way we were going. But essentially you go out [Highway] 50, and then you get on—I think it’s 722—and it’s in the Desatoya Mountains. Incredible place.

What’s it like?

High, red-rock canyon walls, with a stream running through. And then at the top of it is a frozen waterfall.

Don’t you love this state?

I love this state! I truly love this state.

Did you learn anything about Nevada that you didn’t know before?

I was already aware that the state had a large amount of wilderness. That’s what brought me here from Alaska, because it’s the only other state in the union I can deal with. It was the only place that has the wilderness that I like to be near. I can deal with living in the artists’ lofts downtown, as long as I know that, virtually within biking distance, there’s wilderness. One of my favorite areas of wilderness is Hunter Creek Canyon. I can actually bike to that trailhead. And be in wilderness in 30 minutes.