Got at least a half-century's worth of rings circling your tree trunk?
You've lived life. You are -- as this contest's organizers term it -- "50 and better." And you've translated all those years into all this art.
"There are people here who have been practicing art all their lives, and there are people who have just come to it," says Jeanne Voltura, gallery coordinator for the City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs, whose latest display is the 11th annual "Celebrating Life!" competition and exhibition at the Charleston Heights Arts Center, featuring the artwork of Clark County artists age 50 and, well, better.
"We use the appropriate verbiage now," Voltura says. "But someone said to me in the past, 'Oh well, this is a senior art show, it isn't a professional show.' Well, why should senior mean unprofessional? There's a lot of strong artists in that category that are studying and learning."
Judged by three jurists, this year's contest drew 207 entries, 69 of which were chosen to hang at the Charleston Heights Arts Center, comprised of original oil and acrylic paintings, drawings, pastels, mixed media, sculptures, ceramics, watercolors, gouache and photography.
Roaming the display reveals eclectic sensibilities among the mature artists represented. Appealing in its simplicity, Jane Marquez's "Radiant Light" depicts a window in the nook of a house, the sun throwing shadows against the wall, a picture of tranquility -- as if you'd want to be lounging there, lost in contemplation.
One contemporary portrait pictures three African-American youths just hanging out in T-shirts and jeans, arms crossed, one wearing a bandana, another's underwear peeking out above droopy jeans in the now-familiar style. Completely opposite in tone, another oil painting portrays a dapper African-American man, clearly of a bygone era, perhaps the Jazz Age, decked out in a crisp suit, a fedora with a purple headband and a scarf, sitting before a martini glass, smoke wafting up from his lit cigarette.
Startling when first encountered, an extreme close-up photo of an elderly man so vividly exposes every crevice in his craggy face that gazing at his days-old gray stubble and thick mustache, one can almost feel it roughly scraping against the skin.
"I was impressed," says local artist Stewart Freshwater, one of the contest's jurists, along with Suzanne Hackett-Morgan and Bobbie Ann Howell. "Overall, the entries were pretty high quality, higher than what I've seen in the past.
"Some of the artists have been working (at regular jobs) all their lives, and some try to do their artwork as a career, but a lot of them take it more seriously as they retire. I suspect also that a lot of them don't even start doing artwork until they retire. There are different levels of artistic ability."
Varying widely in tone and subject matter, "Life!" takes us to a dark, foreboding portrait of the Yuma, Ariz., territorial prison, bars on both sides over a dirt floor -- but with sunlight arching over the bars nearest the outside world, as if freedom is still possible. Whimsy defines another piece that pictures a man in a chef's outfit holding a fish near a river, as if he just caught the critter, ready to fry it for dinner. And in the very definition of casual Western cool, a cowboy is depicted leaning against a barn door, adjusting the spur on one boot.
"Some years I'm squinting my eyes and saying, 'That's not good,' but this year I didn't say that," Voltura says. "These are well-designed and crafted. There's a tightness to them, some that are so quirky and strange. It was pretty easy to put it together visually."
Contrasting in tone and feel yet equally vivid, two portraits address the revolving seasons of nature. One is an inviting landscape of a boat docked at a harbor before what looks like a cozy summer residence, an artistic snapshot of a breezy summer getaway. The other pictures two birds perched on ice-covered branches, one on a lower branch, the other on an upper branch, simply looking at each other. Yes, you can feel the cold, but also the lovely chill that is winter at its prettiest.
And in a warmhearted photo, an elderly, white-haired woman holds a nest occupied by a tiny bird, happily communing with it, seemingly in midchirp, as if the two had bridged the species gap.
"The interest has been stronger this year," Voltura says. "All of them are utilizing their art to enjoy this time in their lives."
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.