It's a quiet little piece, not unlike the gallery now holding it. Titled "To Mahan-Iran2," the 1975 work by Edda Renouf is part of a remarkable collection of contemporary art that has found a home at the Donna Beam Art Gallery.
"It's not typical in the manner of its making, which may have something to do with why I like it," says gallery director Jerry Schefcik. "It feels like a drawing, but also like a low-relief sculpture. It comes alive with the shadows cast by the light hitting its small punctures." Its subtlety draws you in, he says, and invites a close examination.
Maybe the Beam will do the same for you. And maybe something in it will inspire you to follow the example of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, who purchased that Renouf. The postmaster and librarian put their paychecks toward art beginning in the 1960s and now have a collection of well over 4,500 pieces. It's too large for one location, so the Vogels, in conjunction with the National Gallery of Art, have distributed pieces to each state under the Vogel 50x50 project.
The Beam houses Nevada's share and will work it into the regular rotation of student and faculty exhibits. The Vogels, who are still adding to the collection, likely would appreciate their works finding a home amidst Las Vegas' young artists. They started their collection with works from unknown artists. "They went to galleries and talked directly with the artists. Over time, they became very educated about art - not in the formal sense, but perhaps in a more personal and meaningful sense," Schefcik says.
They did not buy art, like many wealthy collectors do, as a symbol of social status or to reap a profit, Schefcik says. They bought what they liked. And so might you.
"Buying art can be intimidating," he concedes. "I tell people, 'The piece should speak to you on some level.' Buy that one and just think about it. Then continue to simply keep looking at art."
Cost can also turn off novice buyers. "It's a stopping point for me too," Schefcik says. He offers this: Consider the amount of time creating the piece took as well as the cost of the materials. If a $200 piece took 20 hours, is $10 an hour too much to ask?
As a keeper of a Vogel collection, the Beam is in good company. California's share went to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles; Arizona's to the Phoenix Art Museum; and Texas' to the Blanton Museum at the University of Texas at Austin. UNLV's collection of drawings, collages, and paintings by 22 artists includes works from Stephen Antonakos, Mark Kostabi, Richard Tuttle, and Larry Zox.
"The collection adds to the cultural fabric of the university and Las Vegas," Schefcik says. "In a small way, it helps to make us a more livable, enriching city."