One spacious room displaying photography now fully encompasses Erik Lauritzen’s characteristic view of Nevada’s landscape. The exhibit, Stop the Car, Dad!, recently left the Truckee Meadows Community College art gallery and now is on display at Bartley Ranch.
“I loved it; it’s quintessential Nevada — that’s what I would call it,” said writer Maria Denzler, who visited the exhibit on its first day at Bartley Ranch.
The photography showcases a boom-and-bust lifestyle evident in many deserted Nevada towns by drawing attention to sometimes forgettable roadside scenes. Deserted snow cone stands marking a dry landscape or a locked gate leading to endless space present eerie reminders of past life in abandoned towns.
“We just want to provide an opportunity for the public to experience a piece of Nevada they don’t typically see and to bring attention to things other than just gambling and divorce,” said park ranger Bryan Harrower.
The exhibit is a mirror image of the childhoods of many local Nevadans. Denzler, a Battle Mountain native, remembers asking her own father to stop the car at interesting desert sights.
“I thought the title was brilliant,” she said. “From the remnants of the military to the small businesses, it’s sort of a reminder of how civilization impacts the land.”
Born in 1953, Erik Lauritzen grew up in California and studied visual arts at the San Francisco Art Institute, yet was later awestruck by the enormity and desolation of the Nevadan landscape. Inspired, he founded the TMCC photography department and taught there for 15 years.
At 4 years old, Lauritzen was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and was given five years to live. After receiving three kidney transplants, including one from his father, Lauritzen survived until Aug. 9, 2007.
His mother, 86-year-old Martha Lauritzen, described her son’s passion in an excerpt from the exhibit’s gallery notes.
“He was a great teacher and did affect the lives of many students,” she said. “I do think his work was his whole reason for going on. Somehow the control of composition in his photos made order out of a chaotic world, gave structure and stability.”
The exhibit is part of an educational initiative Bartley Ranch hopes to offer its visitors. Previously owned by Gus and June Bartley, the ranch became a Washoe County park in 1995 under the arrangement that it preserved a ranching environment.
“We have an educational objective,” said District Manager Colleen Wallace Barnum, “Truckee Meadows Remembered likes to come and talk about the history of Nevada and ranching, so it’s neat that the exhibit goes over different points of interest in Nevada.”
The ranch offers eight different facilities for reserve, horse arenas free to the public, and the Robert C. Hawkins amphitheater. On any casual day, picnickers and pets will lay under shady trees and walkers challenge hot, sandy pathways around arenas.
Harrower claims that static displays and exhibits such as Lauritzen’s are small additions to the park’s original vision.
“We like to focus on local artists and bring attention to anything local,” he said. “We have a great community and we want to support and promote that.”
The exhibit will be showcased at the park daily until Aug. 5 in the Bartley Ranch Interpretive Center. Organizers expect it to attract a few thousand observers.
“I recommend it for everyone,” Denzler said. “(It’s) for photographers, and for people who just love Nevada. It’s for people to get a small taste of the quirky and fun side of the state.”
For seven weeks the exhibit is a chance to spotlight the rural nature, devoid of famous metropolitan attractions, that has characte-rized the up-bringing of Nevada’s locals.
Stop the Car, Dad! photo exhibit
Where: Western Heritage Interpretive Center, Bartley Ranch Regional Park; 6000 Bartley Ranch Road
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Aug. 5