We want to share a public service announcement regarding Omega Mart. It has recently come to our attention that people think we don’t have bathrooms. Or, that our bathrooms aren’t real. On the contrary, they are very real and fully functional. But don’t be disappointed to learn that they are indeed just bathrooms. Because here at Meow Wolf, we leave no territory unmarked. Guests who visit the bathrooms are blessed to see the work of local Las Vegas artists adorning the walls. Mary Sabo, Mila May, JW Caldwell, Pretty Done and JK Russ have transformed a profane place into a sacred one.
Our group of artists, whom we call the Art Team Task Force, have their fingerprints on many of the exhibition walls. Mainly, because Meow Wolf doesn’t believe in blank walls. It was left to these artists to create beauty where once was white. Just weeks before opening, the bathrooms remained starkly untouched compared to the increasingly colorful and textured walls of the rest of the exhibition. Little whispers fluttered, “This can’t be the finished bathroom!” Of course not. Seemingly overnight, the spaces were transformed into wonderlands.
Each W.C. is their own landscape, complete with characters and even a soundtrack. (That’s an upgrade for the sounds you can expect in any other bathroom.) Mary Sabo said she felt “...Omega Mart contains so many smaller environments within the larger experience, so my goal with my mural was to add to that. I want Omega Mart guests to feel like they are still in a weird little world, even in the bathroom.”
Mila May also found herself creating a microcosm. Her “goal for the mural was to create a strange world “The Lab” in which a process is taking place but it’s unclear what it is. The Assistants who work there taking notes and extracting samples definitely know what they’re doing.” Little did she know, but Mila picked up on a key subversive component of the Omega Mart story.
For those who don’t need to be transported to get lost in their own world might relate to Pretty Done. His approach to his work was to, “just start and don't stop. I'm random so I will chip away at different areas until the design starts melting and meeting together to form.” Watching him in the video above of the process, you can see how immersive it is for the artist himself as well as our guests.
This encapsulating experience is shared in JW Caldwell’s mural. His vaguely ominous octopus knows no boundaries and seems to close in on the guest. For JW, “it was important for me to paint not only on the walls, but the ceiling, tile, & stall dividers. I wanted it to be lurking around every corner. I didn’t want it to just be something the viewer looked at. I wanted the environment to kind of interact with the viewer, and vice versa.” Thankfully, there are no tentacles reaching out from the toilet bowls. The only thing sucking you in, is the art.
The real, natural world resonated with multiple artists in their murals. In answering the call of nature, you get nature! The landscape of Las Vegas can be found in “lifetime desert dweller” Mary Sabo’s Mojave Desert inspired piece or across the hall, Red Rock Canyon comes to life. JK Russ was inspired by the signature rock and “combining the birds with human figures is... a way of emphasizing our connection with the natural world.” Russ says “[I] wanted this to set the scene for the exotic fashionistas who flock to our fabulous city. Some of the collaged birds in the mural are native to this area, and others are exotic visitors.”
This perfect backdrop was made for a photo of you and your fly birds. Bring the whole posse in the bathroom and take a cue from JK Russ and artist assistant Jung Min with a commemorating selfie.
So, take your time in our bathrooms. Wash your hands twice! Snap all the selfies.
Author Bio: Christy Sakamoto is the Programming and Outreach Manager at Meow Wolf Las Vegas where she works with the community to develop meaningful engagements. She has spent her career in the arts and culture, previously at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas and the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.