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Area15’s Art Island has massive festival artworks on display

Updated June 26, 2020 - 9:20 am

On Thursday morning, Winston Fisher has a box of 100 antique glass eyeballs on his desk at the offices of Area15, a new experiential attraction gearing up to open this September.

Fisher is not yet sure what he will do with the glass eyes, just that he saw them for sale in an antique store in Taos, New Mexico, thought they were cool and figured he would find a purpose for them.

His impulsive attitude toward art acquisition is what powered the curation behind Area15’s new outdoor gallery, the Art Island.

Once Fisher, CEO of Area15, and Michael Beneville, chief creative officer, believe they safely can enforce social distancing at the parking lot gallery, they plan to open the island of festival-style artworks to the public.

The outdoor gallery features seven artworks, curated by Joshua Levine, owner of Fired Up Management.

Artworks include a 15-foot-tall fire-breathing dragon called “El Scorcho” by artist Ivan McLean and a new sculpture by artist Tomas Toulec that riffs on the classic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

A small container houses “Perception” by Matt Elson. Two angled mirrors and swirling lights create an arc of infinite reflections that transport visitors into a personal kaleidoscope.

“I think it’s going to be very exciting to just give people the opportunity to get up that close to some of this art, which to see in other situations, you have to make it deep into a desert or into a festival,” Beneville says.

Other artworks include Tyler Fuqua Creations’ “Mechan 9,” a massive robot that Life is Beautiful attendees may have spotted half-buried in the ground, and Davis McCarty’s 20-foot-tall iridescent “Pulse Portal,” which creates colorful shadows in daylight and becomes illuminated by LEDs after dark.

Fisher says that Michael Benisty’s “In Every Lifetime I Will Find You,” which consists of two polished steel figures, is one of his favorites in the collection.

Other outdoor artworks will be on display when Area15 opens, including a larger-than-life disco ball in the outdoor events center, a towering sculpture assembled with shopping carts, and a burnt-out military airplane that Fisher purchased just as impulsively as he did the box of eyeballs.

“I saw it online. So I bought it,” Fisher says of the plane. “There’s an impulsivity always backed by process. So it’s not reckless, but — you can’t just find a burnt-out plane if you’re not looking for it. We knew we wanted stuff in the parking lot. I mean, I’ll do something with it.”

The intention of the artwork in and around Area15 is two-pronged. In the short term, the rotating gallery will offer guests opportunities to view and interact with the artworks. But the gallery also functions as experiential inventory for prospective buyers who can see the artworks in their intended environments, rather than in a warehouse.

“Frankly, what we’re doing, I think, is to give artists who create for all of these extraordinary festivals another place where they can display their work,” Beneville says. “So it doesn’t languish in a warehouse. Art should be experienced and art should be seen, and art should be bought.”

Contact Janna Karel at jkarel@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jannainprogress on Twitter.

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