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art After all, it’s Sin City, a place founded on temptation and congenial to serpents, that pulses warmly with life and sociability — a sense of home. And nature, far from being typically pastoral, is dark, impenetrable, terrifying. These are ideas are at play anywhere. “When we started talking about a show, I was really drawn to his earlier work in the Vanitas  and  Body of a House  series,” Mc-

Mackin says. “It seemed timely with his return to town and to what was currently going on with our economy, to look back at these concepts in a new body of work.” Writing on the wall “I’ve lost track,” Beckmann says as we loiter behind the Dula Senior Center, an ancient civic building on Bonanza. I’ve just asked him how many murals he completed during

his years here. He guesses: “Somewhere over 250,” an astonishing number, though some are probably better classified as “painting projects” than murals — wayfinding color stripes in high schools and the like. But many have been large public or commercial commissions: at McCarran International Airport; in such resorts as Bellagio, Mirage and the Rio; in banks and on government buildings. Indeed, it’s an irony of Beckmann’s career — though not a bitter one, he says, perhaps convincingly — that he’s probably better known in town as a muralist than as a studio artist, a situation we’ve come to Dula to contemplate. Somewhat absurdly, we’ve bulled through two fire exits and one uncomprehending clerk to access this rear lot so we could look at … the grimy, dreary, utterly empty back wall. Years ago, one of his earliest murals undulated up and down this dull expanse. He put it up with the aid of high-school students in, what, 1977? He pulls the whole thing up from memory: “It was 30 colors — 10 rainbow colors, plus 10 lighter variations and 10 darker ones,” he says. “When we were doing it, the people going by were honking their horns and going, ‘Yeah!’” Repeat a couple hundred times and you have the makings of a remarkable visual legacy. Except some don’t last, of course. The Dula piece has been gone longer than it existed. Plenty of his murals exist only in photos and his memory. He says that doesn’t bother him; it comes with mural work. It’s not meant to last forever. Still, it’s tempting to use Beckmann’s own tendency toward metaphor — in this case, artwork erased from public view — to pose a few searching questions: Does it irk him that Beckmann the muralist has in some ways overshadowed Beckmann the fine artist? Did he get

“Oak.”

36 | Desert

Companion | April 2013

Desert Companion - April 2013  

Desert Companion celebrates the passions and aspirations of Southern Nevadans. We inform, entertain, engage people and define the spirit of...

Desert Companion - April 2013  

Desert Companion celebrates the passions and aspirations of Southern Nevadans. We inform, entertain, engage people and define the spirit of...