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Man’s flag art in Las Vegas pays homage to Mexico, Guatemala, Veterans Day, Lincoln

Visitors to Las Vegas City Hall in the past few months have been greeted with huge paper flags that are laden with symbolism.

“One of the most effective ways to make a statement in art is to make something really big,” said Justin Favela, whose show “Patrimonio” is set to be on display from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday through Dec. 15 at Las Vegas City Hall’s Grand Gallery, 495 S. Main St.

The works are large-scale versions of papeles picados, the Mexican folk art paper flags that are used to celebrate both secular and religious holidays and are sometimes used purely for decoration.

“I wanted to do something for the space that had never been done before,” Favela said. “I started thinking about the imagery that I wanted on the papeles picados. I was thinking of my own heritage. I’m a very proud Latino-American , so I wanted to mix those two worlds together.”

The result was a blend of national flags, portraits and symbols representing the holidays that happened during the installation’s run.

“There’s a Mexican flag for Mexican Independence Day, a Guatemalan flag for Guatemalan Independence Day and an American flag for Veterans Day,” Favela said. “Lincoln’s birthday happened during the show, so there’s a portrait of him.”

Jeanne Voltura, gallery director for the space and several other city of Las Vegas galleries, said she was pleased with the result, calling it a bold and striking installation.

“I love the way the light plays through it and the shadows it makes,” Voltura said. “The strong colors in that space are hard to ignore.”

Because paper was not readily available in the size Favela wanted, he overlapped and glued together smaller sheets, ending up with flags that are three layers of paper thick. Traditional papeles picados are cut several at a time with chisels used on stacks of paper.

He just finished up work for an exhibition at the Denver Art Museum that also uses traditional Mexican folk art techniques. He attaches layers of colors of feather-cut paper to canvases to create images.

“I’m making what I call pinata paintings,” Favela said. “Some people would call them mosaics.”

Favela is a full-time artist, doing art jobs and curating several galleries for Clark County. He is also the artist in residence at the Promenade at Juhl, 353 E. Bonneville Ave.

Visit justinfavela.net or for more information about city of Las Vegas art programs, visit artslasvegas.org or call 702-229-1012.

To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor email ataylor@viewnews.com or call 702-380-4532.

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