On Nov. 1 and 2, Ferino Distillery on Reno’s West Fourth Street celebrated its grand opening with the display of Summer Orr’s watercolor collection Of the Desert. The distillery also functions as the newest off-site gallery space for the Holland Project.
Like the desert itself, Orr’s watercolors contain deep, rich reds and earth tones. The paintings depict the flora and fauna of the desert with an energy and style that echo Orr’s work as a hand poke tattoo artist. The compositions seem to fold subjects of plant, animal, and mineral into one another, working to represent the layers of the desert ecosystem alongside the colorful stripings of sedimentary structures.
As I observed the collection, the particular enchantment of the high desert, with its intricate airs of nuance and mystery, became apparent. In Orr’s pieces, the layers of the land reveal themselves subtly, with a liminality that borders, in brief moments, on the surreal.
My eyes seemed to play tricks on me as a prickly pear cactus suddenly became a jackrabbit. Soon, the large object casting its shadow among leisurely cattle began to oscillate between giant tumbleweed and shell fossil. A row of red desert rock formations came to resemble wildfire flames that tinted the sky the colors of the light spectrum, their tail of smoke rising as a moth swept near the red sun, extending its sugar-hungry tongue. A portrait of a jackrabbit splayed mid-leap among rocky plateaus and circling crows seemed to communicate nature’s harmony, until I noticed the small, red, claw-marked incisions bleeding through the animal’s fur. Still another prickly pear cactus, realistic at first glance, soon revealed itself to be made up of the ears and whiskers of more desert hares.
The watercolor pieces are the products of a month-long residency in southern Utah. “I was out in the desert daily, getting inspiration from the rock formations and flora and fauna of that region,” Orr said. “I’d collect a moth wing or a rock or a tiny cactus clipping and paint from those objects. The environment around me and its animals and colors were my strongest inspiration.”
Although the watercolor paintings will cycle out in February, Orr’s artwork will be a permanent element of the distillery. Manager Michael Moberly and owner Joe Canella asked the artist to create a mural that would illustrate the entire process of distillation, the journey from fresh botanicals to bitter, Sicilian-inspired spirits.
The mural, Orr said, aims to “emulate the woodcut style of vintage still illustrations.” The all-white brick wall background accompanies lines painted in a shade of blue that resembles Pyramid Lake. In four panels, the mural depicts the harvesting of fresh ingredients, the processes of distillation and fermentation, and finally, the sharing of the final products over a large wooden table.
Moberly, who holds a seat on the Holland Project’s board of directors, said that in designing the bar, he thought about how to incorporate artwork in several ways. In addition to Orr’s mural and the Holland Project’s gallery, elegant black and white photographs by Cesar Lopez hang above the seating areas.
Ferino possesses an energy akin to house-show-punk-meets-prohibition. This alleyway glamour is integral to the building itself. Until Ferino was constructed, the space the structure now occupies was indeed an alley. The interior of the building maintains a feeling of pre-gentrification Fourth Street with its sultry lighting and iron-piping that lines the walls, although the cocktails feature more of a “New Reno” price tag.
At the bar, patrons choose cocktails from a zine-style menu that even includes a page of DIY Holland Project drinks. One cocktail, dubbed the HP Twanky Twanky, is served in a paper bag and flask-shaped jar which is supposed to “feel like drinking outside of a show in an alley,” said Moberly. One dollar from the proceeds of these drinks, as well as from each bottle of hand-crafted Canella family fernet, is donated to Holland, along with 25 cents from every can of PBR.
Moberly said the gallery section of the distillery will change approximately every three months, and appropriately, the zine menu and its contents will change alongside it to reflect the current collection.
Summer Orr’s exhibition Of the Desert is on view at the Holland Project’s satellite gallery inside Reno’s Ferino Distillery through late January. Visitors of all ages are welcome from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., and the venue is 21+ after 3 p.m. In February, the gallery will show the work of Richard Jackson. For specific dates and details on this and Holland Project’s other exhibitions, follow @hp_galleries on Instagram or visit Holland’s website.