Say that old saying no longer.
Oil and water? Mixing lately like they were best buds.
"This is oil on canvas and everything is evocative of the landscape and water or lack of water," says Elizabeth Herridge, managing director of Springs Preserve, about "Robert Beckmann: Elemental Landscape," an art exhibit that went on display in the fall and runs through Jan. 7.
"We're a project of the water district and water is life. I felt that was an important point to get across. ... He's done some pictures of the Las Vegas Wash and we have this series he's done on the flooding of the wash."
Residing in Las Vegas for nearly 30 years before relocating to Oregon in 2005, Beckmann's art also has been widely seen in town on murals created for casinos and at other spaces throughout the country. "Elemental Landscape" examines the significance of water as well as its interaction with other natural elements -- air, fire and earth. Painted landscapes that explore these themes are of both local vistas and those inspired by his Oregonian surroundings.
"Artists have a responsibility to their talent to look at their immediate environment and speak to that, to where they live and the social structures that are there," Beckmann says.
"I've had a longtime interest in the Las Vegas Wash. I've been a bird-watcher forever so I was naturally drawn to the wash area. It's one of the natural filters for our drinking water and I wanted to make people aware of those situations so I focused in on that wash in many ways."
Thematically, water and lack thereof streams through Beckmann's paintings. "Roads End" portrays a nearly dried-up riverbed, and "Rogue Gorge" depicts water racing down a gorge as if determined to sculpt it. Fire is introduced into the environment with "Firefall," as little flames fall like raindrops into the flowing water. Other pieces capture flooding in the Las Vegas Wash, as well as the entrance to Lake Mead.
Yet a sense of grandeur and sweep grace such paintings as one of the Valley of Fire in the late-afternoon light, allowing us to gaze out into the vastness between massive cliffs, and the brilliantly hued "Red Rock Sunset," as the sun's orange glow settles over the mountains.
"In the pieces that are there, there are beautiful landscapes framed in a way that's pretty traditional," Beckmann says. "There are others that are a little more awesome. Light has always been a metaphor for spiritual illumination."
Herridge, ex-managing director of The Venetian's now-closed Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, has brought her artistic sensibilities to bear on the Preserve, arriving four months ago and instituting a fine-art program at the sprawling nature center. Beckmann's showing marks the debut display of paintings in the Big Springs Gallery inside the Origen Experience, which had previously hosted photo exhibits.
Additional gallery space at the complex likely will see future exhibits of artwork not previously hosted at the Preserve.
"I came from the Guggenheim Hermitage, I ran that for five years and I found there really was a dearth of venues to look at art, with the closure of the Las Vegas Art Museum and the Guggenheim," Herridge says. "I felt it was important, and since we had the space already allocated, I thought we'd make the most of it."
Also crucial is that the Big Springs Gallery is a warm and inviting space, conducive to art appreciation, and Herridge says the initial effort has been well-received by patrons. "As an introductory show, we want people to have a different idea of what goes on over here, that it isn't all facts and figures," Herridge says.
"We've started to market this place very differently than we had before. There are five or six themes to our central mission. This is just one of them."
That new artistic element could blend with the Preserve's overall setting like oil and water.
You know what we mean.
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256