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Paintings provide outsider’s perspective on life in Las Vegas

Gig Depio’s exhibit, “A Brief History,” isn’t outsider art, it’s art about being an outsider.

“When you’re in a place for a long time, you lose sight of it, and there’s so much you don’t see anymore,” said Patrick Gaffey, cultural program supervisor for Clark County. “Sometimes, it’s easier to see things more clearly with fresh eyes, and that’s just part of what’s happening with this show.”

The show is scheduled to be open during regular business hours through Jan. 9 at the Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 McLeod Drive. The show features oil paintings ranging in size from small to “how did they get that in here?” The works are packed with detail and heavy with layers of paint and personal meaning.

“I moved here six years ago, and I made a lot of friends who were active in the art scene,” Depio said. “I tried to get my work into a gallery, and it was rejected. I felt like I wasn’t part of the in crowd, so I couldn’t get my work shown. Then, when I got this show at the Winchester, some of those friends acted like I didn’t deserve it because I hadn’t been here long enough. That’s what led to the 16-foot painting.”

The work “Requiem for the Outsider” includes scores of figures arranged in a complicated composition and surreal juxtapositions reminiscent of Work Progress Administration paintings from the 1930s. Depio said he didn’t put anything in the paintings without giving it a lot of thought and having solid thematic reasons.

For example, there are a number of blue figures in the paintings. Each one carries its own symbology, but as a group, the blue figures refer, in part, to the Blue Man Group as a representation of the outsider, the immigrant and people as commodity that is easily replaceable by an uncaring corporate structure.

“I’ve met a lot of good people here who are having the same difficulty, who still feel like outsiders,” Depio said. “I wanted to make a piece about the ordinary people that make the art scene. The people who work in the casinos, the entertainers, the waiters, the busboys. Without all of them, we wouldn’t have an art scene or entertainment.”

Much of the imagery in the work comes from Depio’s personal life. He grew up in the Philippines and studied art with his father, an art professor. He learned valuable techniques from him but found him a difficult man, and in rebellion, he put his art aside and went to business school.

He ran his own company for several years before the call of art became too strong, and he left the company to pursue a career in art in the United States. He lived in Massachusetts and California before settling in Las Vegas and taking a job in construction.

“You’ll see a lot of my life and my experience in the paintings,” Depio said. “The workers, tools and machinery come from my time in construction. I used a lot of friends for models.”

He also used a lot of public Facebook images for inspiration, taking poses and facial structure and changing settings and redressing the figures.

“I feel like a lot of people are much more active in the art scene on Facebook than downtown,” Depio said. “I was looking at those people and bringing them out into the real-world art scene. I was sort of robbing from the rich. I was trying to use a little bit of sarcasm and a little bit of wit.”

That aspect is one of the elements that most interests Gaffey.

“I’m hoping the work will influence some other artists,” he said. “It’s kind of a departure for here. We haven’t seen a lot of political work.There’s room for it, and there’s people to do it. I cannot believe the number of wonderful artists we have here today.”

Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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