New art exhibit features unique fascination with the West |

New art exhibit features unique fascination with the West

Special to the LVN
"The waitress" by Willem Volkersz
Courtesy of Churchill Arts Council |

The Oats Park Art Center had an artist’s reception for Willem Volkersz and a gallery walk-through Saturday to present his exhibit on “American Landscapes.”

Valerie Serpa, executive director of the Churchill Arts Council, said attendees to this year’s community-wide reunion will find Volkersz’s work fascinating as the Holland-born artist developed, in what has been called, “an immigrant’s fascination with America.”

Serpa said the arts center at 151 E. Park St., will be open from 4-6 p.m. and 9 p.m. after Saturday’s free in-the-park concert featuring Miles Nielsen & the Rusted Hearts on the Centennial Stage west of the Oats Park Art Center.

The band takes the stage at 7:30 p.m.

This is the second free concert-in-the-park this summer sponsored by the City of Fallon and the Churchill Arts Council.

After the concert, she said people can walk to the arts center on the eastern side of the park and see Volkersz’s exhibit.

Because of his fascination of the West, Volkersz traveled throughout the western states with camera in hand to document an unique culture of billboards, vernacular architecture and decorated yards. Over time, he became fascinated with the pop culture of larger-than-life advertising figures, neon signs, postcards and travel souvenirs. These experiences became sources for his sculpture.

“After my family moved from Amsterdam to Seattle when I was 14, I began photographing the new, vibrant landscape of billboards, neon signs and vernacular architecture that I discovered on early road trips,” Volkersz said. “I became fascinated with roadside art and popular culture and began to document environments built by folk artists and to collect postcards and travel souvenirs. Ultimately … these experiences became sources for my work.”

Volkersz described how he constructs his artwork, which begins with an idea jotted down on a piece of paper.

“I first construct a panel, prime the surface and then project an image that may be based on a postcard or a paint-by-number painting,” he said. “While I am painting, John Nyman in Billings (Montana) bends the neon based on my patterns. Eventually, the neon is mounted on the panels, I install a transformer, complete the wiring and, finally, select objects found in second hand stores and attach them to the surface.”

On a side note, the iconic Lariat Motel sign adjacent to the arts center would fit the description of a colorful neon sign that welcomed weary travelers to Fallon. The restored sign made its debut at the arts center in October 2013 as the state began its year-long celebration of its sesquicentennial.

“Many artists during the 1960s were influenced by the neon signage they encountered in the urban landscape — only Volkersz’s use of neon was personal and narrative,” wrote Kim Koga, director of the Museum of Neon Art.