Here we are – Labor Day itself, day three of the three-day holiday weekend and post three of a three-post field trip weekend. It’s been hot in Berkeley. Playa hot. Three days, three posts.
Work takes me to Reno a few times a year. When there in 2016, I took a drive east to Imlay to see Frank Van Zandt’s visionary artistic environment Thunder Mountain Monument. It was stunning.
This year’s excursion was no less stunning. What happened is:
Over the last year, I was in touch with David Fenimore, shown here in his D Form (third grade) class picture at the Episcopal Academy. He was one year ahead of me. His family lived between Fisher Lane and Morris Avenue in Bryn Mawr. I would ride my bike on Fisher Lane on my way to and from choir practice at the Church of the Redeemer. I knew Dave, but I knew his younger brother Dick, a tremendous soccer player, better.
Dave came across Quirky Berkeley and comments from time to time. He lives in Reno and is a Continuing Lecturer at the University of Nevada in Reno. He has taught Composition II, The Modern World, American Experiences, Science, Technology and Modern Society, and Language and Culture (Storytelling).
He had some ideas about quirky things to see in Reno the next time I was there. Game on!
For a warm-up, our first stop was Fred and Wilma’s Gold Mountain Rock Garden at 90 West Moana Lane.
The signage banks on the name and the Flintstones.
There are big rocks for your garden. A sculpture. Quirky sculpture.
And here is David Fenimore, 59 years after his third-grade photograph
Good start! Hot and sunny and quirky.
Main event in the main arena, top of the card: The Generator, 1240 Icehouse Avenue.
It is a 34,000 square foot communal art space. An anonymous donation made a few years completely free possible. You come, you make art, you share. There is a gallery, but the goal is for the most part not to sell.
Our first guide was Brooke Lynes.
She refers to herself as the Wicked Witch of the West Recluse. She grew up among the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
She introduced us to two of the Generator’s principles.
Aric Shapiro is the Director of Development. There isn’t much on the cutting edge art scene in Reno that he isn’t somehow involved with.
Lindsay Adams is the Technical Director.
The Generator provides free workspace for artists who agree to give back, in some form,to the community. Much but not all of the work done there is installation work for Burning Man.
Back to Brooke:
This is her work space at the Generator. Close ups? Sure.
She calls his Sequoia Bling.
This is Psychedelic Bark Beetle Tree. The beetles made the grooves.
Copper lace giving the impression of sketched henna.
Good work! And then, showing us around. Starting with major projects.
Da Vinci is now outside the library at UNR.
David Fenimore took this photo for me. For you. For us.
For Burning Man 2017, Riley is working on Maya’s Mind. Maya being, of course, Maya Angelou. When we visited, Riley was working on the intermediate-scale bust of Angelou – not yet the large final one.
This is the small, original one.
And this the intermediate phase. From the Maya’s Mind Facebook page comes this photo of installation at Burning Man.
And then –
And here – one after installation. A-mazing.
Burning Man 2016 saw The Pier Group and Matt Schutz’s Space Whale.
Schultz is the founder and creative director of The Generator. In 2011 and 2012 the group installed The ship and Pier at Burning man. In 2014 it was Embrace. This year, another Schultz space project.
It is called, I think, the Great Space Foil.
There is a remnant of The Pier at Generator.
This was the pier.
And this was the ship. And here at Generator, the bait shoppe.
Kendall Knowles.painted the sign.
In a corner:
Killbuck Norman has a workspace at Generator.
His art draws on the art of the circus, carnivals, and sideshows.
As in this mural on Virginia Street,Reno.
Creative Potential had just completed a Teen Street Art workshop when we visited the Generator. They describe their mission: “Creative Potential is a company that creates educational products and opportunities for young people. We manufacture toys, games, and puzzles using the most non-toxic materials available. One of our many missions is to create a program for people with disabilities to gain employable skills and provide opportunities for people with disabilities to earn competitive wages.”
This work rocks! I’d buy me some of it if it were for sale. Every Big Quirky Art Room needs an entertainment center.
Other projects/installations/pieces that we saw:
This little bird is a scale model of what will be a Very Big bird.
The Wall of Sound! Just like the Grateful Dead! (The Wall of Sound was an enormous public address system designed specifically for the Grateful Dead’s live performances in 1974. It was designed by audio engineer Owsley “Bear” Stanley. The Wall of Sound fulfilled the band’s desire for a distortion-free sound system that could also serve as its own monitoring system. The Wall of Sound was the largest concert sound system built at that time).
There was one more stop after Generator – a big VW bug spider.
.For almost 20 years, the Volkswagen bug spider sat on the roof of the old fire station on Wells Ave. In 2008, the new owners didn’t want it. A date with the scrapyard was narrowly averted when Clayton Scudders, owner of Scudders VW Performance Specialists at 630 Victorian Ave, Sparks, came to the rescue.
It was a mess and it is big. The clean-up and installation cost more than Scudder thought, but there it is, a reminder of a quirkier past. The spider artist is David Farmbrough. Roadside America reports that Farmbrough started making the bugs in 1979, and that at one time there were four of them. Aric Shapiro reports that the spider was an early inspiration for him – bringing us full circle back to Generator.
Bonus Scudder’s rocks with a couple good murals:
That, my quirky friend, was a great afternoon in Reno.
David has a long list of Quirky Things in Reno to see next time. I look forward to it.
Living 3,000 miles from where I grew up, I don’t run into people from my childhood very often – an added bonus to the time with David. Our years at a private boys school outside Philadelphia are long ago and far away, but it is a comfort to talk about the teachers and classmates and – yes – the buildings, the wonderful old robber baron mansions that housed the school. I posted photos of the school in this not-Berkeley-at-all post.
This is the second verse of our school song:
Then let us strive, whate’er the game,
to add new lustre to thy fame,
And loyal be to thy dear name!
That afternoon in Reno, we added new lustre to Episcopal’s fame.
Reno will never be the same for me. I regret having written it off since first coming through the city in 1972. I will learn from this unfortunate judgment and try to avoid judginess in the future.
On this visit, It was a hot afternoon in Reno. Swirling around me were all the work things going on, plus the time with a schoolmate last seen 49 years ago, plus the funky Las-Vegas-Lite-Meets-Wyoming feels of Reno with this tremendous quirk. Everything was clicking together, the pieces lining up. The Big Love of Berkeley was with me, and the creativity of the sculptures at Fred and Wilma’s and the spider and the Generator – all just very good. Very Big Love, transported over the Donner Pass to Reno. Its power grows.
Some have asked if I intend to go to Burning Man.
Too sandy / dirty / gritty.
And too intense. I think that the role of the Very Far Out is not to draw us as far out as they exist, but to draw us from the shadows, to see that many things that we don’t see as possible are in fact possible. The makers and artists of Burning Man inspire me. From a distance. Yes, I know, that makes me a lurker, a coward. Not so. I draw inspiration without immersing in the whole thing.
I asked my friend what he thought of the photos. You will remember that he claims to have hung out with Van Zandt at Rolling Thunder Monument in the 60s. Whether he did or not, I know that he did spend some time up there, briefly working as a dealer at a casino.
He now claims to have been”tight” with Hobo Cyrus.
Hobo Cyrus makes sculptures with river rocks on Riverside along the Truckee River. I actually tried to find him but failed. My friend claims that he and “HC” were very simpatico.
I said I’d try harder next time. But what about the photos, the post?