Looking at art with artists
Christopher Tsouras walks you through one of his Drone Series images
1. THE BLUR While the print color and tonality are created in postproduction digital processing, the blurred effects were made in-camera. The decision to do so was directly related to the environment: a windswept water-retention facility at the north end of the valley, which appeared alien and removed from the city behind me. Ancient Mesopotamia or modern Iraq? I imagined an electronic vision presented to a distant pilot from a missile rocketing toward its target. I began to envision a different way to view the world — through the lens of a drone.
2. THE DIAGRAMS These elements are related to my training as a mechanical draftsman. They augment the visual vocabulary, expand the imaginative potential and implied narrative of the work. Are they meant to simulate electronic gun, missile or targeting sights? Probably.
3. THE UNUSUAL FRAMING The use of nontraditional materials applied directly to the print challenges the traditional ideas of presenting a photograph. Google Thomas Barrow’s Cancellation Series photographs.
“Ziggurat (A Priori)” is included in the CSN faculty exhibit through Sept. 26.
Up all night for a good run
Ultramarathon runners can provoke the same head-scratching aversion as female bodybuilders and Lance Armstrong. So the greatest gift the extreme sport may receive is resonance. And that’s what it gets from Running Past Midnight author Molly Sheridan, a Las Vegan who has completed not only the 150-mile Marathon des Sables through the Sahara Desert, but also the 135-mile Badwater in Death Valley, the 138-mile La Ultra in the Himalayas and more than 50 other long-distance races.
Readers can relate to Sheridan’s autobiography partly because she was 48 when she took up running; broke a bone in her foot three weeks into her first, ill-informed stab at training; and has been told by people — including one doctor — that she’s too old, too tall and too unathletic to be racing. But more importantly, Sheridan is as beset by fear as the rest of us. Running Past Midnight’s best passages are those in which she wonders how she’ll recover from her midlife divorce and empty-nest syndrome or, more urgently, evade attacks by bears, spiders and wild dogs. We feel her slogging up life’s hills at least as often as she cruises on endorphins, and begin to believe a triumphant finish is within reach for us, too.
Sheridan’s not being a professional writer shows in the book’s simple prose. While not for the persnickety lit-crit, Running Past Midnight will engage most everyone else with its honest treatment of the search for love, purpose and self-acceptance at middle age. — Heidi Kyser
Dave Hickey’s poison petunias
Vegas’ fave art critic tackles Facebook: a few excerpts
I have more “friends” than I could ever have imagined and I do not want to lead you down the garden path. … So remember that I am a discarded critic. I really don’t exist. I have a penchant for toxic ideas that I scatter about me like poison petunias.
Art needn’t be taught. It should never be a required course. It is the marginal enthusiasm of people like me and some of you. … My suspicion is that most of you people are not art people. You don’t breathe it, you don’t buy it. You don’t aspire to its greatness. Nor should you. It’s mostly for me and some dead people.
On teaching art to athletes
A lot of the players I tutored made the pros, like Greg Anthony, Larry Johnson and Shawn Marion. A lot didn’t, but they never let themselves go, even after the five years that marked their window into the pros. I would see them all around Vegas trim and tight, in the gym, parking cars, working as greeters or security. Even when the chance was gone, they never lost their front, never stopped shooting three-pointers in the empty gym, never let their threads look skanky. My point: Unknown artists have a 40-year window to make the bigs. This is a big edge over jocks, so you need to keep your front. You need your work habits. You need some decent threads. …
On good and bad art
If you could consciously tell the difference between good and bad art, you could move your art over to the good side. That’s all it takes. Bad art doesn’t develop into good art. You make six years of bad art, then get up one morning and decide to make good art, and you do. You only have to tease what you instinctively know into consciousness.
On life in general
I just think it’s best to know how to do everything before you do anything. Then it’s a choice and not a default decision.
Planting in autumn? Yes!
Spring is planting time in most climates, but here fall is better for most plants — it gives them months before the next hot, dry summer. Some tips:
Digging an extra-wide hole will help roots spread. But don’t plant your plant deeper than it is in its pot, or you might suffocate the roots. If it’s not a desert plant, mix in one part well-decomposed organic matter to three parts soil.
Group plants of similar water needs in “hydro zones”: desert plants here, moderate water-users there. Integrating them will lead to overwatering some or underwatering others.
Wood chip mulch is the single best health-care practice you can do for non-desert plants.
Think variety. Along with shrubs and trees, include ground-covers (prostrate germander, teucrium chamaedrys), succulents, accent plants and flowering perennials (Indian blanket flower). Different foliage colors, too — silvers, blues, grays, even purples. And textural variety: yuccas, agaves and cacti for fleshiness, ornamental grasses for softness and movement when it’s breezy.
Underplant trees with other plants.
Keep desert trees away from lawns to avoid overwatering.
Obvious but important: Don’t plant messy trees near your pool!
Expect and accept failures. Gardening is a process, an unfolding learning experience. When plants fail, it’s part of the game. — Norm Schilling