New Crop 2019 Exhibition at CCAI Courthouse Gallery

The Capital City Arts Initiative [CCAI] presents its exhibition, New Crop 2019, by artists Mark Combs and Frances Melhop at the CCAI Courthouse Gallery, both participants in the University of Nevada, Reno’s MFA program. CCAI will host an opening reception on Friday, June 7, 5-7pm; the artists will give a brief talk about their work at 5:30pm. The exhibition will be in the gallery from June 7 – September 26, 2019. The reception and the exhibition are free and the public is cordially invited. 

The Courthouse is located at 885 E Musser Street, Carson City. The gallery is open Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm.

Sculptor Mark Combs gives viewers two approaches to his metalwork. His earlier distressed metal car-part sculptures are ornamented with soldered rods and bolts reflecting a ruptured system both socially and figuratively. His carefully hammered bone pieces came into shape after hours of forging as a nod to death and celebrations of life. Photographer Frances Melhop documents aging rural structures with classic color photography. In Vanish, her printed enlargements of unnamed 19th century portraits on silk are elevated to fly across our vision like fleeting memories.

The objects Combs produces examine the human condition using memories, life, death, injury, and healing as inspirations and are based on the repeated exposure to blood, gore, and psychological trauma experienced while he was in the Air Force medical corps. His artwork has the feel of the memento mori, and vanitas motifs restyled with a modernized appearance echoing death using skeletal references. He has chosen materials, steel and wool, that are tactile and conceptual opposites and thus broaden the meaning of the bones he created. Steel is the main component. It is cold and hard and is forged from minerals. Wool, the opposing element, a soft and fibrous substance harvested from sheep, has a natural bone color. The wool balances the steel’s hardness. The use of these materials in unison generates a yin and yang juxtaposition.

Frances Melhop’s current body of work, Vanish, focusses on impermanence and remnants of ourselves that we leave behind. She said, “I am interested in the connection between photography and memory, the image as a stand in for memory, or comforting simulacra suggesting presence in times of absence.” Vanish is based on the idea that memories are layered; there are gaps and differing transparencies or opacities of depth to each memory.

The installation consists of life-size photographic prints from appropriated, found, tintype images of Victorian girls, printed on semi-opaque silk organza. The tangible evidence of these girls’ existence is found in pocket-size tintypes, each in a varying state of worn disintegration. The tintype, invented in the mid 1800’s signifies an era when portraiture became more accessible, in the form of a cheap tin photograph.

After completing high school in Marysville, Washington, Combs entered the US Air Force as an Aerospace Medical Technician. His 22-year career included four deployments to Kuwait and Iraq; he retired from service in 2009. Combs began his undergraduate studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas initially majoring in drawing. He went on to complete a BFA with a concentration in sculpture and a minor in Art History in 2016. After three years of study, Combs graduated in May 2019 with a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Nevada Reno and received the school’s 22nd Outstanding Student Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture.

Artist Melhop works in photography, printmaking, and oil paint, exploring ideas of impermanence, identity, and memory. She was born in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has worked internationally in the fashion industry as a photographer, creating, shooting, and directing folkloric stories for publications including Vogue Italy, Vogue Australia, Elle Portugal, and Marie Claire Italy. In 2009, Luerzer’s Archive included Melhop in the World’s 200 Best Advertising Photographers. In 2014, she was awarded the Northern Nevada Development Authority’s Comstock Innovator of the Year for her work at St. Mary’s Art Center, in Virginia City, Nevada. Melhop’s work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. Currently, Melhop is teaching Visual Foundations and is a candidate in the University of Nevada, Reno’s Master of Fine Arts program.

The artists will give talks about their art practice to art students and faculty during fall semester.

Kris Vagner wrote the New Crop 2019 exhibition essay, Impermanent Markers, [click here] and is a journalist who’s been reporting on arts and culture in Nevada since 2004. She’s a frequent contributor to the Reno News & Review, an essayist for the region’s arts organizations, and the founder of Double Scoop, a site that covers visual arts statewide, Kris has earned awards for critical writing, entertainment writing, feature writing, and—somehow—sportswriting.

This exhibition is supported by a lead donation from the Southwest Gas Corporation Foundation. The artists and CCAI thank the Foundation for its generous support of this project.

CCAI is an artist-centered organization committed to the encouragement and support of artists and the arts and culture of Carson City and the surrounding region. The Initiative is committed to community building for the area through art projects and exhibitions, live events, arts education programs, artist residencies, and online projects.

The Capital City Arts Initiative is funded in part by the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, National Endowment for the Arts, Nevada Arts Council, John and Grace Nauman Foundation, Carson City Cultural Commission, Nevada Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities, NV Energy Foundation, and U.S. Bank Foundation.