UNLV students & alumni bring live painting to Life is Beautiful

Top row, from left to right: Devin Duitsman, Ruzo Logic, Reina Dalton, Eric Vozzola.
Bottom row, from left to right: Ian Racoma, Holly Vaughn, Kim Johnson, K.D. Matheson.

A Surreal Opportunity
UNLV students and alumni are collaborating with local artists on an interactive mural, called Life Is Beautiful & Surreal, at the upcoming Life Is Beautiful festival. Ruzo Logic and Kim Johnson are the artists responsible for organizing the collaboration. Their vision with the project is to incorporate people with art, and allow them to actively see the work done in real time.

The pair is also known for co-founding Guerrilla ARTZ Factory, a coalition of street artists, about a year ago for downtown’s monthly First Friday events. The mission of Guerrilla ARTZ is to show “Artist in Public! Not Public Art.”

About the mural and artists
Life Is Beautiful & Surreal involves a shared mural that is divided between UNLV students and alumni, Las Vegas Academy students and ZAP artists – that is, artists commissioned by the Clark County Parks and Recreation to beautify electrical boxes around the Las Vegas Valley.

“The nature of this project is actually to do the largest three-dimensional mural ever done in Nevada,” said Ruzo.

The murals are painted on what Ruzo calls guerrilla cages, which are three-sided walls in the shape of a triangle with a canvas on each side. He came up with the idea for the guerrilla cages after his experiences with street art.

“So my idea was to go ahead and build our own walls and set them up in a way that they’ll be free standing and you could see them from all directions and we could put these anywhere and nobody could tell us what to do with them,” Ruzo said. The theme of the mural is surreal pop-art – described as taking something real and making it into a fantasy or imaginary character. “For example taking a bird and putting a human head on it,” Ruzo said.

Artists finished outlining the 40-foot wide murals in time to display it at September’s First Friday held every month in the Arts District. The mobile mural will be completed at Life is Beautiful as an interactive experience, available for viewing on all three days of the music festival.

The piece will have another First Friday in October to celebrate the efforts of all the artists. The collaborative mural will be set up at 18b Arts District.

“As an artist I look for projects that bring artist together, showcasing the talent we possess in ways we and others can enjoy. The vision of Life Is Beautiful & Surreal is to paint where others can join us and interact by having a conversation about and watching the progression of a major work of art,” Ruzo said.

K.D. MathesonK.D. Matheson outlining one of six guerrilla kages.

Upcoming Guerrilla ARTZ projects
Guerrilla ARTZ is also getting ready to work on their newest project, called Guerilla Crossings. The project will involve 21 artists from various states, including California, Arizona, Oregon and Idaho. The idea of the project is to connect different states with shared murals that will be set up on their state lines.

While Guerrilla ARTZ plans for many projects to come, Life is Beautiful & Surreal is their most anticipated project of the moment.

“It’s simple – build something to paint on, get people to support the artists doing it! Let the rest happen in the most organic of ways,” Ruzo said.

Artist Chat
I pulled aside four of the artists working on the mural to talk about their inspirations, thoughts and their contribution for  Life Is Beautiful & Surreal.

Artist: Devin Duitsman
Major: Bachelor of Fine Arts
UNLV alumna 2015

Describe what you drew for this mural?
Devin: I drew a character I developed through my own self-conscious named Slime. She is a light being living in a dark world exploring her consciousness.

What was your inspiration?
Devin: My own personal experiences living in Las Vegas.

What does this collaborative mural mean to you?
Devin: It means a lot. I’m excited to work with a lot of the artists. I’ve seen work they’ve done on their own. So I’m excited to see what our art will look like cohesively.

Who is your biggest art influence?
Devin: Japanese contemporary artists like Yoshi Tomo Nara.

Artist: Eric Vozzola
Major: Graphic design
UNLV 2011 alumnus

Describe what you drew for this mural?
Eric: I drew a cube pattern for the background that would be consistent for the entire UNLV piece.

What was your inspiration?
Eric: There was a lot of organic elements in the murals, so I wanted something more geometric and flat to balance everything out.

What does this collaborative mural mean to you?
Eric: It’s a chance to work with friends and an opportunity for artist to work with a large scale who have not before. This is also an opportunity to work with artist with a range of experiences.

Who is your biggest art influence?
Eric: Zio Ziegler who works with patterns and has a piece downtown from the first year of Life is Beautiful.

Artist: Holly Vaughn
Major: Sculpture
UNLV 2014 alumna

Describe what you drew for this mural?
Holly: I drew up a floating island with whimsically architectural elements that has a secret UN meeting that went wrong (it’s called “the meeting”).

What was your inspiration?
Holly: Socioeconomic advancement/class advancement as well as ghosts, Katy Perry and Halloween.

What does this collaborative mural mean to you?
Holly: It’s a huge opportunity to work with other artists I’ve admired and exposure for local artists in Las Vegas–which is desperately needed.

Who is your biggest art influence?
James Turrell who has an art installation at the Louis Vuitton store at the Crystals Mall.

Artist: Reina Dalton
Major: Fine Arts
UNLV Freshman

Describe what you drew for this mural?
Reina: I drew a scantily clad motorcycle lady with aquatic limbs.

What was your inspiration?
Reina: Surrealism and Dalism.

Who is your biggest art influence?
Reina: Kaspian Shore and Agnes Cecile

Get Pumped For Life is Beautiful

Life Became Beautiful

Growing up as a child in the 90s to the early 2000s, I never thought that Las Vegas would ever bring a music scene, let alone a music festival. Although, skeptical about Life is Beautiful, after attending the first year, the experience was better than I could have expected. Never have I ever had food at a music festival that donned the name of a reknown chef. Never have I ever had the ease of finding my way around a music festival because it was well organized. While I wanted to be the scrooge of Life is Beautiful, I actually fell in love with it.This year, Life is Beautiful is scheduled a month early, falling on September 25-27.

Tips To Beat Traffic & Parking

If you are a local, here are a few suggestions to beat the traffic and avoid the horrendous parking situation.

1] Take the Shuttle: Life is Beautiful is providing shuttles from various locations around the Valley. For UNLV students, the most convenient pick up place is the Thomas & Mack black lot, where parking is free after 1 p.m. on Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday.

2] Book a Hotel: If you’re feeling lucky, try downloading the app Hotel Tonight for discounted hotel prices the night of the festival.

3] Crash Downtown With Friends: If you have friends that live in the downtown area, see if you could crash at their place. The festival will be a short walk or bike ride away, and with friends the journey to the festival could be just as fun as being there.

4] Uber and Lyft: The epic battle waged by state regulators on Uber and Lyft has finally ceased. The ride sharing companies have been up and running in Las Vegas since Sept. 15. So festival goers can now download those apps, make use of those coupon codes and party without worry.

5] Get dropped off: Plan ahead and ask a friend who is nice enough to drop you off near the music festival. If you’re lucky they’ll be nice enough to pick you up afterwards. Otherwise, Uber and Lyft are your new best friends.

What To Wear

1] Dress to be seen: Festivals aren’t for wallflowers or the timid. Life is Beautiful is as much about celebration as it is a place for music. Fashionistas of all genders and identities should be able express themselves and be accepted there.

2] Protect Your Toes and Soles: Shoes complete the outfit, but walking noon to dawn can leave your feet pounding. Invest in some sole inserts to make shoes more comfy. Also, if you have a problem with people dancing on your toes, go with closed-toe shoes.

3] Pack light, but smart: The last thing anyone wants is a lost phone or wallet. Bring a comfortable, secure bag that will be easy enough to carry all day. Stick to the essentials, whatever that means for you – but make sure to take all of those old receipts out of your bag first.

4] Dealing with the heat: September in Vegas is still dripping with heat. Add dancing, walking, eating and windstorms to the mix and there is no guarantee you will leave the grounds looking the way you walked in. Remember to bring somethings to freshen up halfway through the day. If you decide to wear makeup, bring the essentials needed to touch up. Lipstick, sunscreen, mascara and some moist towelettes will come in handy.

Top Music Festival Advice

1] Stay hydrated: Common sense, but easy to forget. Hydration does not mean three bottles of Dos Equis. Water and something to replenish your electrolytes will do wonders while hoofing it from stage to stage.

2] Enjoy the music: Put away your cell phone for one musical act that you love. We live in a digital age, but watching the performance is much more memorable than watching it through the screen of your cellphones. Okay, okay – well, maybe take at least one good photo.

3] Eats: Prepare to be well-fed with choices from the best restaurants, food trucks and chefs in town. One could go into a food coma just by looking at everything up for grabs. However, food can be an investment. Expect to start spending $10 to $12 per food item. For those on a tight budget, there will be food trucks with friendlier prices.

4] Positive Vibes: Keep your vibe positive and friendly. Remember you’re there to share in an amazing experience with others. Don’t be that person who starts a fight in the middle of the chill atmosphere to show how badass you think you are. Just be cool and people will be cool.

Published for the Rebel Yell @ the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.