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Warner explores dream homes in farewell show

Like a lot of folks, artist Mary Warner was just passing through Las Vegas in 1989 and ended up staying. This summer, she’s moving on, but not before curating one more show.

The show, “Dream House,” is to feature the work of Warner and two artists she hand-picked — Mark Brandvik and Emily Kennerk.

“Their work that I saw is conceptually similar,” Warner said. “It’s work that focused on architecture and the concept of home but coming from different angles.”

Warner grew up in Sacramento, Calif., and came to Las Vegas as a visiting artist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She had another stint as a visiting artist lined up in Florida when that ended. Instead, she stayed here and took a position as an adjunct instructor at UNLV.

“I had been in the East and in the Midwest, but I found I loved Las Vegas,” Warner said. “I was ready to be back in the West, where there was a sense of potential, like anything could happen.”

Warner emphasized that while the subject matter of the art in the show is similar, the artists’ techniques and approach and the underlying themes have a wide range.

“My pieces for the show are sort of nostalgic and wishful,” Warner said. “Emily Kennerk is a little more of a conceptual critic. The work I’ve seen had to do with loss of home and the foreclosure crisis.”

When Warner refers to the work she has seen, she’s talking about the work that led her to choose the artists for the show, not necessarily the art that will be in the show. Two weeks before the opening, none of the artists had seen the others’ pieces for the show, and some were still working on new pieces.

Art shows rarely get fresher than that.

In the weeks leading up to the show, Brandvik was busy dismantling his critically acclaimed installation, “Green Felt Jungle Gym” at the Clark County Government Center while still working on his paintings for the show. His process is unusual for fine art.

“There are a number of different paint applications happening in the same painting,” Brandvik said. “There’s some brush, some spray, some color sanding. It’s hard to describe everything that’s going on to make the painting.”

Brandvik started using enamels while working in the sign and mural industry.

“I don’t even know if I could go back now to the oil and canvas I was working with in school,” he said.

The paintings are inspired by mid-century modern architecture and many reference local historic buildings or use them as a jumping off point.

“The subject might evoke a sense of isolation or memory or perhaps it’s romanticized,” Brandvik said. “I still think with the language of the romantic Western landscape, like the artists of the Hudson River School.”

Brandvik mentioned artists such as Albrecht Bierstadt, who visited the wild landscapes of the American West and made fantastic exaggerated landscapes based on sketches made on site. The paintings captured the feeling of the place, not the photographic reality.

“In a sense, Vegas attempts to do that, not that I’m trying to make Vegas paintings,” Brandvik said. “I just happen to be an artist living in Las Vegas.”

Warner is retiring from the university this year and plans to move back to Sacramento.

“I’m a fifth-generation Californian. All of my family is back there,” Warner said. “There’s a mountain range in California, the Warner Range, named after my family. With the retirement, it was time for a change.”

Warner is keeping her Las Vegas home and intends to maintain her strong connection to the valley.

“I’ve been here longer than I’ve been anywhere else in my life,” she said. “The show will be my last one here for a while. It won’t be the last ever.”

Las Vegas won’t be far from her. Her next show will be a group exhibition in Sacramento with two other Las Vegas artists.

“Dream House” is set to be on display Friday through June 1 at the Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 S. McLeod Drive. An artist’s reception is scheduled from
5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 13. For more information, visit clarkcountynv.gov.

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 380-4532.

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