The small white words written on the black wall outside of the third floor exhibit don't quite prepare art goers for what is to come. These words, so easily ignored by the many people speeding into the exhibit room on opening night last Friday, try to explain the life of what seems to be a very conflicted and ever-evolving man — something that becomes clear from his art.
Walking into the exhibit, it is as if Sarich, an associate professor in the art department at the University of Nevada, Reno, wanted you to turn away — like you are looking at something taboo. The first room of the exhibit is filled with early works from the mid-'70s to '80s; sketches and paints are intermingled with wood sculptures and a large photo of Sarich's tattooed hand.
The nearly violent sketches that line the wall evoke an anger as well as loneliness and longing. Introspective pieces like "Love Letters 1 and 2" place Sarich within his art as a frail man who disappears into the chaos around him.
"What's amazing about this exhibit is you get to see how is work transforms over 30 years," said Megan Klein, communications associate for the NMA.
Sarich's transformation seems to come rapidly and takes a new focus when stepping into the second room of the exhibit. With more than two years of preparation by the NMA and 130 pieces of art lining the walls of "Like, Love, Lust" it is nearly a visual overload.
The exhibit's second room moves into Sarich's work from the 1990s to present. Not sure where to look and attracted by the bright pinwheel-type pieces in the back side of the room, it's noticeable that Sarich has something to say about corporate America.
Sarich takes the image of Mickey Mouse and manipulates it in ways that make people think twice about the cuddly rodent icon. On the mixed-media piece "Rip Tide" (2005), yellow Mickeys peer down in a haunting and demonic way.
"I am a storyteller," Sarich told the NMA. "I use iconography that's taken from symbols that have taken on too much importance. They're not bad symbols, just saturation. It's about the romantic and the innocent that has taken on a strange twist."
Art-goer Christy Vargas intensely looked at the "Wall of Skulls" as if Sarich's ceramic masks might eventually say something to her.
"I love skulls," Vargas says. "I came because my tattoo artist, John Potter (at Evolution Tattoo), studied with the artist."
The stretch of Sarich's artistic reach was evident by the crowd that showed up to view his work. Students and professors, art critics and art lovers seemed to enjoy the show.
Dave Bryeans, who works at the Stremmel Gallery in Reno, said he came out to support Sarich. Bryeans recalled that when he started working at the Stremmel Gallery he found what seemed like a hundred prints by Sarich and was amazed by his work.
"The pieces here are great," Bryeans said. "In Nevada you don't get as exposed to really edgy, modern art."
Sarich's edgy art seemed to draw a large crowd of UNR students. Wide-eyed students took in the art in awe of his talent.
"I like it a lot," said UNR student Bob Schienle. "It's chaotic but I think that's what good art is."
But as viewers wound their way to the end of the exhibit, suddenly the chaos mellows. Sarich, 53, who was diagnosed with Parkison's in 2000, has yet again transformed his art to accomodate his life.
The lines in the paintings become smooth and calm, yet the art is still conflicted. The subject matter has become personal again and seems to take a deep look at what is going on with his revolting body.
The beauty of "Like, Love, Lust" was shockingly emotional and deeply intriguing. This is not an exhibit to rush through but one to take your time and really enjoy looking at.
Sarich's vast amount of northern Nevada friends, along with rub-on tattoos handed out earlier in the week that granted free admission, made opening night a large success.
Klein estimated that more than 1,000 people showed up for Sarich's opening night, barely being beat out by the Warhol opening last January.
"Like, Love, Lust" will be on display until March 30 at the NMA located at 160 W. Liberty St. in Reno. The NMA is open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays until 8 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors.
For more information on the NMA, "Like, Love, Lust" and future exhibits, visit www.nevadaart.org or call 329-3333.