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The Art of Free Speech


Drawing by Sapira Cheuk

Two cents: As slang for having an opinion, the phrase doesn’t place much value on what you think — but it  does make clear how little it takes to barge into the great American ruckus and freely express yourself. What is social media, after all, but the clamor of a billion pairs of pennies being tossed into public? Hell, the apocalyptic state of our politics and social relations circa 2020 practically demands it. Still, two measly cents doesn’t necessarily mean the stakes are low, at least judging by some of the pieces included in  My Two Cents, a  pop-up exhibit at Core Contemporary Gallery (900 E. Karen Ave. #D222) that runs January 10-18. The  opening reception is January 10, 6-8p.m.

Look at a piece like “Set the Children Free” by Las Vegas artist Leo Bracamontes, which dramatizes the  child-separation crisis at the southern border. Or Fawn Douglas’s faded, tattered, crudely stitched flag. Or Sapira Cheuk’s meditation on the exploitation of women’s bodies. Topics don’t get realer than those.

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Core Contemporary gallerist Nancy Good, along with co-curators Justin Favela and Izaac Zevalking, put the show together “with the intent of getting people engaged,” Good says, “and having an interesting show related to  free speech. And looking at how artists use their voice to comment on what’s going on around them — in a very creative and intelligent way rather than the lowest-common-denominator way of pointing a finger.” (A previously announced partnership with the local Elizabeth Warren campaign didn’t ultimately pan out;  politics!

No hate speech — that was a condition of participating, Good says. That stipulation seems mostly unnecessary. Despite the ulcerous nature of child separations, for example, Bracamontes’ assemblage — a ceramic doll face behind bars in a crudely devised cell — feels  suffused with grief rather than the bellowing outrage you might expect. That’s underscored by the fact that he collected most of the elements for his sculpture at the border. “He’s got family there,” Good says. “He is keenly aware of this very tragic issue.”

Cheuk’s drawing, meanwhile, uses her signature ink-manipulation technique to depict the female body as a site of  chaos and turmoil, counterpointed by beautiful, delicate line work. 

Other artists in the show include Diane Bush, Lance Smith, Krystal Ramirez, Denise Duarte, Annie Wildbear, Joel Spencer, Mikayla Whitmore, and more, 24 in all. Good says she was careful not to enforce any political viewpoint, hers or anyone else’s. 

“There’s a way to be  smarter about our dialogues,” Good says, “and artists tend to find really intelligent ways to do this.”

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Above: "Nude Female," by Denise Duarte; below, work by Annie Wildbear
















(Editor's note: Scott Dickensheets no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)