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A 100-foot-long mural by Las Vegas-based artists Sush Machida and Tim Bavington is popping off the side of Emergency Arts at Sixth and Fremont streets. It boasts 30-foot goldfish, slot themes and inspiration from British musician Paul Weller’s 1997 song “Science.” Created in conjunction with the Life Is Beautiful Festival, it connects Machida’s colorful Pop- and nature-inspired paintings with Bavington’s intense, music-inspired rhythmic works, in which the artist corresponds colors with musical tones.

(Kristen Peterson, Las Vegas Weekly, October 15, 2014)

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Tim Bavington and Sush Machida reviewing designs for the El Cortez Hotel Casino parking structure. Photo by Kira Weisz.

COLLABORATIVE MURALISM

by PJ Perez 

Inside an airy, sun-kissed studio located within a nondescript industrial building on the periphery of Downtown Las Vegas, local artists Tim Bavington and Sush Machida are poring over large-format prints spread across the surface of a spacious worktable. Bavington is sketching on them with colored pencils, adding to an illustrative fish motif mocked-up by Machida.

The pair is brainstorming ideas for their first-ever collaboration, a massive mural that will adorn the exterior of the El Cortez Hotel and Casino’s parking structure at the corner of Fremont and Seventh Streets. It’s just one of several large-scale murals being created for the second annual Life Is Beautiful Festival, which brings back its celebration of music, food, art and learning to downtown Las Vegas October 24-26. Artists and collectives from around the world—including Los Angeles-based CYRCLE, Australia’s Fintan McGee, Irish graffiti icon Maser, Canada-spawned Li-Hill, and Spanish painter Borondo—will transform the urban landscape not only during the event, but also long after it’s over.

“I think the art is probably the one vertical that lives on beyond the festival,” says Anthony Speigel, art curator for Life Is Beautiful. “I think about it as something that’s part of the downtown community, something that’s meaningful to the people who live and breathe here year-round.”

The murals are not the only art component of Life Is Beautiful. A multitude of local artists, including Jerry Misko, Jevijoe Vitug, Linda Alterwitz, Matthew Couper, and JK Russ, will participate in a pop-up gallery at the former Western Hotel. Patrick Duffy, who orchestrated a similar art exhibit at last year’s festival, will curate the exhibit.

For Spiegel, however, the Bavington-Machida collaboration stands out from the rest of the art programming at Life Is Beautiful. “In this case, it’s a little more unique,” he says, “because the El Cortez is a Vegas institution. These gentlemen are institutions. So, we think about this piece differently than the other pieces that are going to be far more ephemeral.”

It’s Spiegel who thought to bring together the talents of Bavington and Machida, who are individually near-icons in the art scene. Longtime friends and admirers (both are graduates of UNLV’s Master of Fine Arts program), the two work in distinctive, yet complementary styles: Bavington is known for paintings and sculptures that typically feature vertical chutes of color inspired by music. Meanwhile, Machida’s Japanese-influenced work translates natural elements using graphic, minimalist lines, and curves.

“I think Tim’s painting, his fuzzy lines, complements my painting, which has sharp edges,” Machida says. “It creates some sort of contrast that just fits perfectly.”

As Machida and Bavington talk about ideas for the mural, they come to the agreement that whatever they create, it needs to not only work as a standalone piece of art, but it also should feel like a natural part of the existing building, creating a continuity with the El Cortez overall. It’s clear that both the artists, as well as curator Spiegel, want this particular mural to become an enduring facet of the downtown experience.

“If you’re an artist and you’re charged with an idea like this,” says Bavington, “you want to make it something people want to make permanent. And you want it to be something that people want as part of the community.”

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