PRINT January 1999


Jeffrey Vallance

Jeffrey Vallance is an artist who divides his time between Las Vegas and Lapland. Represented by Rosamund Felsen Gallery in Santa Monica, California, he has most recently shown in solo exhibitions at Lehmann Maupin in New York and Galerie Praz-Delavallade in Paris. A book of his collected writings, The World of Jeffrey Vallance, was published by Art Issue Press, Los Angeles, in 1994. Mr. Vallance is currently Professor of International Professional Art at Umeå University, Sweden.


    I recently attended the opening of the gallery at the fabulous Bellagio casino, another sparkling jewel in the Vegas crown. Right on the Strip you can see Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, van Gogh, Picasso, Pollock, Oldenburg, Rauschenberg, and Warhol. (The only thing missing is a Koons.) l wholeheartedly believe in casino mogul Steve Wynn’s philosophy of bringing art to the people—and lately, more and more people are going to Vegas.


    I worship the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation in Yorba Linda, California. But every time I try to donate a Nixon artifact to their collection, it is returned unopened without so much as a letter. I’m luckier at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas. Recently the library has accepted into its presidential memorabilia collection my donations of an LBJ artificial fingernail and a Lyndon Johnson wood-burning kit.


    The Liberace Museum is my all-time favorite museum in the world. Recently, in a documentary for the European television channel Arte, I had the insane privilege to play Liberace’s revolving rhinestone-encrusted grand piano. Over at Ron Lee’s World of Clowns, proprietor Ron Lee has started making amazing clown paintings. The best ones are naive, preposterously detailed, and colorful. I have an awful urge to buy one. Cranberry World West, the museum at Ocean Spray’s Visitor Center, remains unparalleled. The museum display of antique cranberry-plucking devices and the audio animatronic farmers harvesting cranberries must be seen to be believed. I may have ended my academic career in the state of Nevada by having their mascot, Carina, the giant cranberry showgirl, pose in my drawing class instead of the usual nude models.


    Several artists from Vegas have been making the rounds. The Reverend Ethan Acres turned up in a group show at Bronwyn Keenan. Jack Hallberg and Yek recently showed up at Deitch Projects. Troy Swain, Dan LaBree, James Gobel, and Victoria Reynolds were at FM, a new alternative space in midtown Manhattan. Aaron Baker showed at Angstrom Gallery in Dallas. Phil Argent will be showing at Galleria in Arco in Turin. One-person shows are planned for Jane Callister at Sherry Frumkin in Santa Monica and Christine Siemens at Apex in Chelsea.


    My two favorite fanzines are NIXCO and Tiki News. NIXCO is the newsletter for the Nixon Collectors’ Organization featuring the latest Nixon news and reports on recent discoveries of rare Nixon artifacts. Through the classifieds, I keep in touch with other like-minded Nixon fanatics. Tiki News is dedicated to the perpetuation of tiki culture. The Tiki manifesto states, “It is our mission to preserve any and all remaining elements from the Polynesian Pop era of the mid-1950s to mid-1970s.”


    Down in Orange County, California, lies Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Trinity Christian City International. Located not far from Disneyland, it is like an amusement park for the faithful. The “City” features an unbelievable state-of-the-art virtual-reality theater as well as a gigantic sculpture of the archangel Michael crushing the head of Satan, a Gothic chapel/TV studio and art gallery, a historical re-creation of Pontius Pilate’s judgment hall, plus a walking tour along a re-creation of the Via Dolorosa, where you follow in the footsteps of Christ as he carried the cross to Golgotha. The elaborate ceiling frescoes in Christian City rival those of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican—maybe even those of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.


    David Wilson’s museum defies all description. His project began as a critique, but it somehow mutated and crossed the line, becoming a full-fledged museum. The exhibits perfectly mimic high-institutional-display technology, but I’m never really sure what the hell it’s all about.


    A few years ago I was well on my way to , becoming an alcoholic. Now all I drink is an occasional icy shot of Jägermeister liqueur. With its secret blend of fifty-six herbs and spices, it tastes like a cross between Nyquil and Vicks Formula 44. The Jägermeister logo, a stag with a cross between its horns, is the symbol of St. Hubert, the patron saint of dogs and hunters. According to legend, while hunting in the forest Hubert encountered a stag with a glowing crucifix hovering between its antlers. He converted on the spot and went on to breed special hunting dogs, forerunners of the modern dachshund.


    I used to like The X-Files, but lately it’s not weird enough. The only TV program I follow now is Millennium. I especially enjoy the episodes with Catholic themes, like the time the Millennium Group tried to capture the True Cross of Christ. Frank Black is a handsome man.


    Recently I accepted a professorship at the College of Fine Arts at Umeå University in northern Sweden (just south of the Arctic Circle, in Lapland). Nearby is the Västerbottens Museum, with fascinating displays on reindeer breeding, seal hunting, Laplandic (Saami) traditional handicrafts, the world’s oldest ski (5,200 years old), a Nordic wedding chapel, and a diorama of a beaver eating a tree. I particularly enjoy the absurdity of the specially constructed hall built around a massive tugboat christened Egil.