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Thoughts on art, the inexplicable and Little Green Men

Artists contributing to the Little Green Men show in City Hall’s Chamber Gallery were asked to “explore subject matter that relates to life on other planets or in other galaxies, space travel, UFO sightings and the famous Area 51.” Even given such a wide berth for creative freedom, this exhibit mostly relies on rehashed debris from pop culture, television and film. Judging from this show, it seems like the genre has already been defined for us, and there’s very little room left for expanding the boundaries of what we understand about the inexplicable.        

For instance, Kip Noschese’s painting of aliens playing poker probably has more to do with Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Night Café,” and the art of tackiness, than it does with the theme of this exhibit. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The problem of “little green men” is not an intellectual one. It’s a cultural one that changes over the years — the unnatural phenomena that eyewitnesses today ascribe to UFOs, alien abductions or cattle mutilations might well have been seen yesterday as god-chariots, angel visitations or ogres out for a snack of cow rectum. That is, once upon a time we had more romantic views about other worlds and other dimensions. We believed in elves, ogres, genii and dragons. How’d we go from mischievous leprechauns to alien visitors — cold, distant and inscrutable (not to mention sexless and humorless) — in less than a hundred years? Why’d we replace the little green men from Ireland with little green men from Mars? And what’s the deal with these orb-heads, anyhow? Why don’t they have any personality? And how can they just travel around the galaxy without any sex organs?

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If the evolution of the unknown is just a reflection of how we ourselves have changed, what does all that say about us?

You probably won’t find many answers in the Chamber Gallery. You will find images about UFO conspiracies and government cover-ups. Ominous robots and adorable aliens. A space damsel in distress. It's a big universe out there, but this spaceship still washes up on the same old Milky Way.

Through July 14, Chamber Gallery in Las Vegas City Hall, artslasvegas.org

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