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UNLV graduate student Lisa Rock stands by her work at the Donna Beam Fine Arts Gallery. (Photos by Catalina Gajardo)
UNLV graduate student Lisa Rock stands by her work at the Donna Beam Fine Arts Gallery. (Photos by Catalina Gajardo)

UNLV Artist Abstracts ‘Paradise’

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Bright pastels, dainty patterns and oasis visages unite in “Paradise,” a collection of paintings by UNLV graduate student Lisa Rock.

These simple and abstract pieces portray Rock’s view of Las Vegas and the township Paradise, Nev.

“‘Paradise’ is supposed to be tongue in cheek,” explained Rock, who is exhibiting her MFA thesis, “Paradise,” at the Donna Beam Fine Arts Gallery. “The word is supposed to evoke paradise and make you think of paradise. But then you think of Paradise, Nevada, where we are now.”

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The lush imagery that appears in some of her paintings transports you to a tropical place far away from Las Vegas. Rock indicates that the paintings are meant to be ironic, since the conditions in Paradise, Nev. are far from a conventional paradise. This juxtaposition is seen throughout Rock’s collection, but she still uses a warm color palette to reflect desert colors.

To Rock, originally from Massachusetts, the desert is an alien environment. “The desert landscape is so foreign to me. It’s incredibly beautiful and inspiring for me to explore,” Rock said.

The bright reds and oranges mixed with softer pastels in Rock’s airbrushed pieces bring visions of Las Vegas’ vibrant scenery to mind. The bold colors found at Red Rock Canyon and the dreamy, soft tones seen in the Las Vegas sunset are depicted in these paintings. “I was mostly absorbing the information and visual culture of this area and using that for my paintings,” she said.

After completing UNLV’s MFA program at the end of this semester, Lisa plans to move back to Oakland, California, where she lived before attending UNLV. Rock’s goal after moving is to open up an art gallery.

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Rock has full support from her family, who inspired her growing up. She and her sisters found motivation to be creative from their father, who does woodworking. Rock also drew inspiration from her grandmother, who had a ceramics studio in her home.

She has also gained inspiration from artists outside of her family. Mary Heilmann and Raoul De Keyser are two abstract painters who have greatly influenced Rock’s work. Heilmann and De Keyser’s modernist art has been considered as provisional or unfinished. Rock’s art follows a similar style.

Rock explains that she’s attracted to imagery from daily life that often goes unnoticed. “I’m really drawn to decorative imagery, patterns and everyday signage,” Rock said. “Things that we wear and that are around us; the things that are not the most active in our minds, but are there all the time.”

Her airbrush painting depicting the Al’s Donuts sign is just one of many examples.

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Rock was one of 20 artists picked by an independent review panel to partake in Clark County’s “Zap Project” — a neighborhood art project where chosen artists paint utility boxes after receiving input from community members. She will decorate boxes along Maryland Parkway before she moves.

Rock’s artwork is another addition to Las Vegas’ growing art scene.

“I feel like there’s a lot of hope,” Rock said. “A lot of people really want to start something, or keep it going.” She hopes that the art community here will continue to flourish even after she’s left.



Lisa Rock’s MFA collection, “Paradise,” was viewable at the Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery until February 20. However, The Brett Wesley Gallery in Downtown Las Vegas is currently featuring some of her pieces, along with those of other UNLV MFA students.


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