Upon entering a Meow Wolf creation, the phrase ‘expect the unexpected’ goes far out the door.
That same door may lead to another dimension full of vibrant sensory overload. That same door also directs you into endless somber corridors. The door is locked. The key is nowhere to be found. You’re in for a real treat. Welcome to the Art Motel at Life is Beautiful Music & Arts Festival.
The Art Motel – Second Story View
Now – just so you know, it isn’t a scary attraction. In fact, no matter what I tell you, the artfully crafted piece of genius is an experience beyond explanation. And when I say ‘piece’ I mean it. Meow Wolf doses its visitors with merely a drop of what they are capable of. The folks over at Life is Beautiful realized that with the attention brought to the five rooms that Meow Wolf designed two years ago.
This year the team of artists was given all 21 rooms of the abandoned motel for a complete transformation. Unlike their permanent installation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is supposed to be next level (again – ‘next level’ still doesn’t do any justice…), this project is vastly eclectic in that it doesn’t follow a story. Each room is uniquely different and unrelated to the other.
Through one passageway you’ll round a corner into ominous projections of strobe-like consistency. Moments later, where nothing was previously ahead of you on the wall, a figure appears. Shocking if you’re in the room all alone – which I was for a short time. Turns out the horror movie projection is a delayed feed of those who enter the room. All surrounding walls start to cast images of you, appearing as though they are from a distance, even walking towards you.Upon entering a Meow Wolf creation, the phrase ‘expect the unexpected’ goes far out the door.Click To Tweet
Essentially, you cannot escape.
Though they are all different, the glue that keeps them together is the collaborative efforts between the many artists involved.
We explored all the marvelously eerie corners of the Art Motel and hunted down artists throughout the weekend to chat about what the heck this awesome, weird, inspirational— I don’t even know what to call it anymore— was all about…
Chris Beran – Tech Foreman
Here’s how it started.
If you’re just here for the 360° video interview it’s at the bottom. If I may suggest an alternative…it’s worth the read.
Back in August at Oregon Eclipse Festival, I stumbled upon these goofy, fun, psychedelic huts down by the water. Pastel aquamarine dripping through indigo with cushion-top mushrooms (to sit on) rooted throughout the environment. The first was equipped with a board of light up buttons that appeared to do nothing. “How odd,” I thought. Not thinking much of it, I continued to press buttons.
Before figuring out the purpose (if there was one) of this mind-boggling contraption, a father and his son joined me in perplexed fascination. He asked me if I had seen the hut to the left. “It’s all dark and foggy and has a bunch of lasers and stuff. It’s pretty cool man you gotta see it!” I wasn’t impressed with the description, We’ve all seen lasers and fog machines before. Big whoop. However, his recommendation had an unusual amount of gusto. For that matter – I was convinced. After swiping my way through heavy, obsidian-colored meat-locker curtains, I struck psychedelic gold.
Spencer Olsen – Local Las Vegas Artist in his Black Hole Room
Holy shit. I’ve just walked into the Laser Harp…
Inside the laser hut, bearing signs that read, “WARNING: Laser radiation. Avoid direct eye exposure,” strangely serene beams of red shot down in three rows jetting outward. For lack of a better example, it kind of created the same geometry as a fidget spinner. The gentleman had failed to mention that the lasers in this room triggered the sounds of a fricken harp. I’m kind of glad he did so, whether intentional or not. I fell in love with the installation and understood where his keen sense of enthusiasm came from now. What I did not grasp at the time was that Meow Wolf was responsible for these!
Jake Snider – Lighting Foreman – Brave enough to stare directly into lasers!
Life is Beautiful announces Meow Wolf to be taking over the Art Motel for 2017. And it wasn’t until I did some research that I was happily slapped across the face with excitement as I realized I would soon be reunited with the Laser Harp! There is something to be said about finding something you love without knowing anything about it. So I made it my mission to learn as much as I could about Meow Wolf the moment I stepped into the festival.
Kelly Teemer, PR Lead at Zappos, was among the first to school me with some Meow Wolf knowledge. In case you didn’t see the Art Motel yourself, the heavily interactive space was quite the in-depth production, to say the least. The project would not have been possible without a generous sponsorship by Zappos. “We wanted to provide a stellar experience to festival goers,” says Kelly. Based on the faces I saw in the Art Motel, I’d say the attendees had a pretty damn good time. I know I did! My serendipitous acquaintance with Kelly brought me light years and cosmos closer to Meow Wolf. And I thank her for that. Because it led me to the following.
Probably the only imaginable experience more fun than gallivanting through Meow Wolf’s Vegas love child would have to be interviewing them, right? Oh yeah. So I got in touch with Jessica Vredenburg, Meow Wolf’s Project Manager for the most puuurfect little get together. She snatched up artist Cole Wilson and we chit some chat in one of the concoctions Meow Wolf cooked up: the Ramen Room.
Jessica Vredenburg – Project Manager Extraordinaire
Step into the office. I could get used to this desk space. And the company ain’t so bad either.
In my many visits to the Art Motel, I was able to speak with a number of the artists and got some one on one with each of them in their respective environments and rooms. You’ll see below some top quality iPhone pictures with each of the artists I was able to speak with. Their intimacy and enthusiasm coupled with their energy and kindness was profoundly appreciated. I sat in the Slime Room with Benji Geary, Sofia Howard, and David Cudney sparking up conversations about the delighted faces that walked in and out.
We dove into the rabbit hole topic of psychedelic influence in their creations and whether or not the art was intended to be experienced in a certain chemical state of mind. “I want people to come in here and experience confusion. Or maybe feel like they are on drugs. Even if they aren’t,” said David. The countless puzzled faces certainly evoked said reaction. I learned of Benji’s love for Four Loko’s (did you spot any empty bottles scattered around the motel?) and took a stroll up to the second story with Sofia to soak everything in from afar.
Emily Montoya dissected the construction of her Cloud Room and explained the hundreds of tiny pieces that went into the little cities in the clouds. If I could share all the stories I would, but some will have to stay near and dear in my heart for now. These wonderful souls quickly and effortlessly became some of my most favorite people amongst an entire weekend of many favorable events.
Thank you so much for the hospitality and letting us into your visionary home away from home. Thank you for sharing your art. It was a pleasure, an honor, and the utmost fun meeting each and every one of you. For now – I will revel in the excitement and anticipation of making it over to the House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Until we meet again friends!
Featured image by: Zach McKee, Everfest