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After each week of his residency at the Neon Museum’s Ne10 Studio, artist Karl Orozco sat down with Arts Programs Coordinator Jo Russ to reflect on developments.

 Karl Orozco recording impressions after residency week 1:

“The studio space was very overwhelming at first because it’s such a huge space and there’s a lot going on, and it’s in many ways different than how I work. Coming from New York where space is such a high commodity, I’m forced to work at a scale where I can manage the space. It’s why I work with such small linoleum tiles and why a lot of my work to this point has been digital or print-based. I also think it’s been empowering and given me other ways to think about my work. For example, I’ve been starting some sculptures today and this is like the first time I’ve done a real deep dive into that. I don’t think this is a medium that I would tackle back home.”

Recorded after week 2:

”As far as my studio practice is going, I’m starting to settle into a groove. Alongside where I’ve started doing some sculptures, I’m testing a third process where I’m working on paper pulp as the first layer of a sculpture and then over it I’m working with butcher paper-mâché and then from that I’m going to be carving designs out of that second layer and I’m pretty confident that this will be the final run.

We went to the James Turrell "Akhob" exhibit today which was really special. I think people were saying that it’s a very introspective exhibit and it’s probably the first bit of long introspection I’ve had since being in Las Vegas and very different from being out in the landscape where there are ads and large monuments and large signage that are telling you to do things and telling you to do these experiences. To be in a space where there’s none of that and it’s just color and light and no sound pumped in was really, really cool. I want to go back again by the end of my time here.”

Recorded after week 3:

“It’s been a really busy week for Mahjong. Whereas for I think the first two weeks I hadn’t even opened it up or like set it up anywhere, I have set it up in at least four, or even maybe five locations both here in Las Vegas and in Los Angeles where I was over the weekend with a variety of groups. The first major session we held was last week here with the staff at the Ne10 Studio and it was a good practice run to test the space.

When I went to LA with my family it was like a big family reunion. We played about five games. One thing that has happened with this project over the summer is that I’m at least trying to become less rigid with the rules of it. It was already a hard sell to get my family to play with this new set with new symbols, at least my grandma in particular. So I conceded to let them play Philippine rules. Whereas most of the bills are staying true to the traditional rules I’ve been following, I’m starting to have more fun with them and playing around with them and letting people share their experiences and their rule sets and more kind of like cultural histories that they and their communities have with this game.

Now I’m going to transition to Shade Tree where we had two groups of young people coming in. Ages ranged from about six to about twelve. I thought it was really successful. A lot of the older boys were really into the idea of being immortalized, like being in the Hall of Fame. They got really into it! And then there was another young girl who wasn’t so much into the game but was really into making books. I could tell she took a lot of care in printing the cover and back cover of her book. I asked her a little more about that and she told me she planned on using that book to write some poetry and some songs. That was amazing! That was not something I would have foreseen coming out of this project, but I think it’s still very much in line with this practice.”

Recorded after week 4:

“Sculptures are progressing. I’ve got two bases of two sculptures ready. Before I go on to the third, I think I’m going to do a final layer on these ones that are dried and ready to go, and see if this method is going to work out the way I expect it to.

As far as the workshop and the mahjong practice is going, we’ve played a lot! Right now I think the tally is at 76 games and I have a self- established goal of getting to 100. As far as Sunday is going, Elyse is on board to do some tea serving and small educational workshops around tea. We’ve got Jim Prather at the Las Vegas Review-Journal working on an instructional video which is a really big help and quite a load off of me. We’ll see how effective it is at speeding up the instructional process but here’s to hoping it helps! I think this Friday will just be completely devoted to cleaning the space and making sure it’s up to snuff for Friday. And regardless of where we’re at, I think it’s going to be a really good event! I think people have been responding really well to the game."

To be continued...

The Neon Museum National Artist Residency takes place for eight weeks over summer in the Ne10 Studio warehouse and is accompanied by programming to engage the community. This project is funded in part by a grant from the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. During his residency, Karl Orozco has conducted Mahjong Play and Print workshops for both community groups and the general public and will host a free Open Studio event on Friday, August 24, 6-9 p.m.