weather icon Clear

Artists install immersive, environmental art for Life is Beautiful

One of the most striking sculptures at this year’s Life is Beautiful festival was created by a Girl Scout.

After spending most of her last seven birthdays at the annual music and art festival, this year soon-to-be 19-year-old Tahoe Mack will display her life-size Monumental Mammoth for the first time.

In its seventh year, Life is Beautiful is expanding its art lineup to include more 3D installations, immersive works and interactive pieces. To that end, the 18-foot-tall mammoth is in good company.

“She came up with the idea to do the mammoth out of debris and other recyclable materials,” says Samantha Rayburn, manager of festival operations for the event. “She’s a young visionary and we’re so excited to have her.”

When Mack was 15, Sherry Grotheer, director of the nonprofit organization Protectors of Tule Springs, spoke to Mack’s Girl Scouts troop and shared the history of the group of women who, beginning in 2006, gathered informally to protect the Tule Springs area.

“They heard that they were going to put development over the fossil beds, which would’ve been completely lost and destroyed. So they made a stand to protect the land starting in 2006,” Mack says.

In December 2014, Tule Springs was made a national monument, but the area remained a popular location for illegal dumping.

For Mack, the piles of metal debris were inspiring.

“It’s really cool in Las Vegas, and especially at Life is Beautiful, there are a lot of pieces made out of recycled trash, like Bordelo last year with his meerkat car,” Mack says. “It’s just so cool being in a city where they reuse materials.”

For her prestigious Girl Scouts Gold Award, Mack needed to execute a project that would be independent, sustainable and require no fewer than 80 hours of work.

She conceived a life-size mammoth — an animal that long ago roamed the wetlands area north of Las Vegas — constructed from the abandoned light fixtures, bullet casings, car parts, broken tools and clock parts strewn about Tule Springs.

Mack started by reaching out to local artists for help, and ended up finding an entire community of assistance.

Luis Valera-Rico, the welder who created “Radial Symmetry” on Main Street, taught Mack how to draw up a sketch using computer-aided design, and weld the mammoth’s interior skeleton. Artist Dana Albany helped Mack design the exterior using recycled materials.

“I would go to school until 2:30, then put on my welding outfit and work until 8 or 9,” Mack says.

Fresh off a jaunt to Burning Man, she hopes Life is Beautiful festivalgoers will be just as inquisitive as burners regarding the mammoth’s environmental significance.

“The art there is out of this world. We would present to every person or group who came and tell them about the project and conservation,” Mack says.

Sometime next spring, the Monumental Mammoth will be permanently installed at Ice Age Fossils State Park.

Lasting impressions

Another local artist, Eric Vozzola, was contacted by Life is Beautiful organizers to create an installation for this year’s festival.

While he has contributed to murals in downtown Las Vegas, the 25-foot-tall and 140-foot-long wall is his largest ever single surface.

In his mural, “An Allegory of Natural Beauty,” he depicts what he finds beautiful: patterns, plantlife and the balance of black and white.

The lower part of the mural features a handful of patterns in different color palettes.

“I wanted to create backgrounds and moments for people to interact with,” he says. “I’m curious to see how people photograph with it or crop it.”

After drafting a digital sketch of the mural, he largely free-handed the design, navigating a cherry picker across the wall to paint a bending line.

His mural is across a parking lot from a 2017 mural by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel and opposite an immersive installation of a European market by Portugese artist Akacorleone.

“It’s nice for visitors to see that mix of international artists and local pieces. It gives some weight to the art community,” Vozzola says. “It kind of speaks to the melting pot of the city. We’re all just artists making work whether we’re from here or not.”

Immersive forest

Albie Alexander, founder of the immersive experiential art pop-up 29Rooms, is partnering with Brooklyn artist Sam Cannon to create a temporary exhibit inside the Western Hotel.

The experience will invite visitors to explore a forest of silhouetted trees before reaching a clearing of grassy knolls. There, they can lie on the grass and take in projected images Cannon filmed in parks near her home and on vacation in Hawaii.

“The installation is centered around kicking off a discussion with attendees about the climate crisis,” Cannon says. “We’re partnering with Sierra Club to create this moment of respite and meditation.”

Other innovative works making an appearance at this year’s event include a kinetic yarn sculpture by Hot Tea; a towering mural made to look convincingly like a shadow box of butterflies by Mantra; and an installation that utilizes shadow to create projected typography by Indian artist Daku.

Most of the internationally-sourced artworks are curated by Justkids, a creative house that coordinates comprehensive art projects.

“For the past seven years, Justkids has really helped shape downtown,” says Rayburn.

While, like most years, some installations will only be accessible during the festival, the murals will be here to stay.

“When you’re thinking about Life is Beautiful as a whole, the mission is to transform the community,” says Life is Beautiful CEO Justin Weniger. “Every year, downtown gets slightly more beautified with more murals, more walkability.”

Weniger lives downtown. He remembers even four or five years ago it would have been unthinkable to walk down Fremont Street from Las Vegas Boulevard to Maryland Parkway.

“It’s amazing,” he says. “Now you see people doing art tours and having this sense of pride. From the start, the mission was to spark this sense of art and culture and community.”

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Central Perk coffee shop opens for business
As part of Saturday’s “Friends” Fan Experience at New York-New York hotel-casino, the artist Nathan Sawaya debuts his life-size, 700-square-foot re-creation of the show’s Central Perk coffee shop that’s constructed entirely out of Lego bricks. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Binion's debuts a spinning bar overlooking Fremont Street Experience
Binion's debuted its spinning bar inside the Whiskey Licker Up Saloon. The Rotating bar only goes at one full rotation per 15 minutes overlooking the Fremont Street Experience. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Green Eggs and Ham at Carson Kitchen in Las Vegas
Scott Simon, executive chef at Carson Kitchen in Las Vegas, makes a Green Eggs and Ham Flatbread with pistou, smoked mozzarella, tasso ham and eggs. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Lemon Semifreddo Dessert at Vetri Cucina in Las Vegas
Ashley Costa, pastry chef at Vetri Cucina at the Palms in Las Vegas, freezes lemon curd with whipped cream, sandwiches it between polenta-based crumiri cookies, sprinkles it with powdered sugar and drizzles it with argrumato, a lemon olive oil. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Hard Rock Memorabilia Exhibition
The 2,600-square-foot exhibit, which is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays to Mondays through Jan. 31, spans eras and genres alike. There are numerous rare and never-before-seen items here, featuring artists from ZZ Top to Nine Inch Nails, Bo Diddley to Britney Spears. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Museum of Selfies coming to Las Vegas - VIDEO
The interactive attraction offers several new selfie opportunities. (Museum of Selfies)
Show of Strength in 'A Choreographers Showcase' - VIDEO
"A Choreographers Showcase" pairs artists from Nevada Ballet Theater and staff from all facets of Cirque du Soleil to design an annual show. (Elizabeth Page Brumleyy/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
David Chang talks about what to expect at his new restaurant, Majordomo Meat & Fish - VIDEO
David Chang tells fans what to expect at his new restaurant, Majordomo Meat & Fish, at The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pink Lady and Rosey Mary cocktails at Therapy in Las Vegas
Terence Beach, bartender at Therapy restaurant in Las Vegas, makes original pink cocktails to benefit breast cancer research. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Torrijas dessert served at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill in Las Vegas
Chef Christian Lee of Sugarcane at The Venetian in Las Vegas makes a dessert of torrijas, a Latin French toast, serving it with a caramelized-apple sauce and cinnamon ice cream. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
David Chang to sell Tasty Patties at Palazzo in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Chef David Chang has announced a casual concept that will accompany his new Majordomo Meat & Fish at Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Latkes, tzimmes at Market Place Buffet in Las Vegas for Rosh Hashanah
Ryan Swanson, Market Place Buffet room chef at the JW Marriott/Rampart Casino in Las Vegas, makes potato dishes as part of the resort’s Rosh Hashanah buffet. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
How Elphaba In "Wicked" turns green - VIDEO
Mariand Torres gets "painted" by makeup supervisor Joyce McGilberry for her role as Elphaba in "Wicked" at The Smith Center. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Hangover is served at The Crack Shack in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Khine Moore, executive chef at The Crack Shack at Park MGM in Las Vegas, makes The Hangover with a fried chicken breast or thigh dipped in honey-butter, sprinkled with Crack Seasoning and topped with an egg. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dessert Before Dinner winner Becky Quan
Nine of Las Vegas’ top women pastry chefs offered original creations built around Girl Scouts Trefoils shortbread cookies Saturday night at Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada’s annual Desserts Before Dinner Gala. The top dessert, as voted on by the audience, was an homage to Good Humor’s old-fashioned Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars created by NoMad’s Becky Quan. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chef Sammy D is cooking again in Las Vegas
Sam DeMarco served his first public meal since returning to Las Vegas on Sunday, with a pop-up brunch at 7th & Carson. And the veteran of the First Food & Bar, Rattlecan and Sam’s American has more in store for the downtown spot. The chef, known as Sammy D. to his friends, is taking on a consulting chef role with restaurant that will see some of Sunday’s offerings added to the regular menu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Carl’s Donuts in Las Vegas celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day
Carl’s Donuts, a Las Vegas-based company that’s been serving the city since 1966, celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day with specialties themed to fall. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Harrison of "Pawn Stars" has a new store - VIDEO
Rick Harrison, the Pawn Stars co-star and owner of Gold & Silver Pawn, talks to the Review-Journal’s John Katsilometes about his soon-to-open Rick’s Collection retail outlet of mostly mid-century masterworks at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa - VIDEO
Because of popular request, the 1-year-old Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa, with shrimp, ground pork, neither or both. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trial by Fire cocktail at the Golden Tiki in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Adam Rains, head bartender (also Grand Poobah and a few other things) at The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, makes one of the bar’s tiki drinks, (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gordon Ramsay renovating Las Vegas steakhouse - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is preparing to re-launch his Paris Las Vegas restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Steak. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cats owners compete for top show awards
The annual Jazzy Cats event is taking place at the Rio Convention Center this weekend attracting cats owners from around the country and the world to compete for the top show awards. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas serves blackened Cajun catfish - VIDEO
Troy Remer, sous chef at Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, blackens Cajun catfish on the grill before serving it with mashed potatoes and collard greens. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon at Mr. Chow - VIDEO
This just may be the gold standard for the filet mignon. Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas has introduced The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon, which is coated with real 24-karat gold. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Working as a mermaid in Las Vegas - VIDEO
McKenzie Kawano works as a mermaid at the aquarium at the Silverton in Las Vegas. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinkbox Doughnuts opens third store in Las Vegas area
Las Vegas-based Pinkbox Doughnuts, which opened its third store at 9435 W. Tropicana Ave., specializes in doughnuts such as the new Station Wagon, with Butterfinger; pink-velvet Pretty in Pink; and hybrid Glazed DoughCro Bites. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal, with image courtesy of Pinkbox Doughnuts
Starbucks brings back Pumpkin Spice early
Starbucks declares Aug. 27 the first day of fall as they make their pumpkin spice items available a full month early. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo at Carmine’s in Las Vegas
Roberto Leon, a line cook at Carmine’s at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, makes Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo with eight pounds of lobster, a pound each of mussels, clams and shrimp, two pounds of pasta and two gallons of sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'American Idol' auditions in Las Vegas
“American Idol” was in Las Vegas Monday looking for singers to compete in its upcoming 2020 season. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan part of the Harlem Globetrotters
Scooter Christensen, who grew up in Las Vegas, will play with the Harlem Globetrotters at The Orleans in Las Vegas Sunday, Aug. 25. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)