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Hot Seat Lead | art

Jw Caldwell
Brent Holmes

Jw Caldwell

The ebulliently “negative” paintings of a singular Vegas artist.

Here now a few words from the cognitive dissident pictured above, Jw Caldwell, one of the city’s most bearded, sweetly irascible, and deservedly beloved artists. His distinctive canvases wring their own mojo from the text-and-image tradition of your Ed Ruschas and Wayne Whites, but lit with color explorations he credits to the effect of living here. His first solo exhibit in years, Cognitive Dissonance, opens this month in the Rise Gallery in Holsum Lofts.

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MY WORK is more tongue-in-cheek nihilism, if there is such a thing.

Jw IS my real name; I’d like to get that out there. That’s what it says on my birth certificate.

THIS SHOW will be the usual: pretty heavily text-based, a lot of animal imagery, a lot of inside jokes, bumper-sticker philosophy. I’ve been looking through the work a lot lately, and it’s all pretty negative. (Laughs.) But, like I say, in a tongue-in-cheek nihilism way.

I’M WORKING on an image that involves a hammerhead shark and the saying, “When you’re a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.” It’s basically about headaches. The meaning will be there, you just have to peel the onion a little to find it.

PEOPLE HAVE said I complain too much, and I say, “Stop making it so easy!”

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I WANT it to be accessible. Art is a visual form of communication, so if I can relay my intentions to you in a more direct way, then it works.

A LOT of times, the phrase comes first — I’ll pick it up from something I’ve read, a conversation, song lyrics. I’ll latch onto a phrase, ascribe a meaning to it, then try to tweak it. What does this mean, what can it mean? And then the image will often follow pretty rapidly after that.

I DON’T believe in perfection; I like to see the artist’s hand. All the letters are hand-done — I don’t use a computer; I rarely use a straight edge. I like to see little fluctuations and flaws. (Laughs.) Sometimes you can tell how hungover I was when I painted it.

THERE’S USUALLY a punch line in there that I want you to get, or get close to.

Cognitive dissonance Jan. 2-30, Rise Gallery in Holsum Lofts. Opening reception, 6-9p, Jan. 2

(Editor's note: Scott Dickensheets no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)