Valley man tapped for governor’s awards |

Valley man tapped for governor’s awards

by Kurt Hildebrand

Johnson Lane artist Paul Ford will get to see his paintings “Endangered Spaces” for the first time as a group on Thursday when they are on display for the 27th Annual Governor’s Arts Awards at the Nightingale Concert Hall, Church Fine Arts Complex, University of Nevada, Reno.

The retired Carson High School art teacher prepared nine 18-by-24 inch pieces for the awards. Eight will be handed to recipients and the ninth will go into the permanent collection.

Ford, who turned 61 this month, said his paintings, created out of recycled plastic bags and soil mixed with acrylic paints tell the story of the subdivision of western Nevada.

“The series covers the area from Smith Valley to Minden to Carson to Washoe Lake to Reno and to the Black Rock Desert, pretty much the western side of the Great Basin,” he said. “It describes the changes we’ve undergone here in Nevada. They are impressionist paintings at first look and then layers of plastic bags from various stores can be seen at second glance. They are cut into grids, not unlike how our Valley and area have been subdivided.”

Ford has lived in western Nevada since he graduated from San Diego State in 1978. Born in Seattle, Wash., he said he attended 26 schools between kindergarten and graduation from high school in Van Nuys, Calif., as his parents moved from place to place as part of the aerospace industry.

“It was a fun upbringing,” he said. “There was the foreboding of moving, but I sure learned how to pack a truck.”

He started teaching in Carson City and moved to Carson Valley 23 years ago. He is married to Gail.

Ford retired from teaching two years ago and has been filling his time with his art.

“Artists never retire, they just keep on chugging,” he said. “I really enjoyed teaching, but now I’m really enjoying my retirement and the self-exploration I’ve been able to do is pretty cool.”

Those winning awards receive a painting as the prize. Ford said he has two paintings he received as awards and was eager to give back.

“They have to be suitcase sized because people come from all over the state,” he said.

More than 20 people applied to supply the awards and Ford said he was surprised to have won the competition.

“They were all outstanding,” he said off his competitors. “I’m was really surprised my work was thought of as being the best of the year.”

Starting in the middle of last summer, Ford was able to complete all of the pieces with room to spare.

“I was headed to South Africa three or four weeks ago,” he said. “I made a point to get them all done ahead of time.”

He said the vacation helped inspire him to new works.

“Seeing the world puts things in perspective,” he said. “It really makes you realized how lucky we are here. I’ve got a great burst of new ideas for a new series.”

Ford said he will attend Thursday’s dinner not only to get a look at his paintings displayed formally in one place for the first time, but to mingle with the people there.

Ford received the Governor’s Arts Award for Arts & Education in 2005, the same year he retired from teaching. In 1997 he received an Artist Fellowship in Visual Arts from the Nevada Arts Council.