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April 18, 2014

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Kill your lawn. Artist gives old adage a water-conscious-in-’08 meaning

Statement that contradicts suburban ideal is for him a point of pride

Image

Steve Marcus

Robert Curry stands in his front yard Wednesday. The Las Vegas artist says in March he stopped watering his lawn, let it turn brown and outlined the word “Green” in paint.

Green Grass

Las Vegas artist Robert Curry has made his front lawn into both an artistic and an environmental statement. Curry, who is no longer willing to pay the monthly watering and gardening expense to keep his lawn green, decided to let it go brown, then spray paint it green -- all but the large letters G-r-e-e-n.

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Robert Curry gave up. He got tired of drowning his lawn with water, then paying gardeners to groom it, then balancing his checkbook only to find it was warped by the weight of the $225 he spent monthly just to keep the grass alive.

So Curry stopped watering, let the lawn burn brown and spray-painted the word “Green” onto the grass — perfectly precise letters that stretch from one end of his dead yard to the other — a suburban dream deferred, half-joke, half-statement.

Then his new water bill arrived in the mail: $9. No joke.

The Las Vegas artist has left his lawn like this since March. He’s mowed the straw-stiff grass once, and when he did, it made the font even sharper. So now the lawn screams “Green” even though it’s the furthest thing from it — an illusion, in Las Vegas of all places.

Curry, who’s made a living painting murals in casinos and buildings across Clark County, had the green paint left over from another project. He loaded it into an insecticide sprayer, the kind with pump action, and assaulted the grass. The actual word he created like a stencil — painting everything around the letters but not the letters themselves, so it’s a negative image: Green done in Brown grass.

Now he has green shoes, too.

But the grass isn’t just green, it’s also green. As Curry let his lawn die, he also made his house easier on the environment. He insulated his windows and attic so they’d stop leaching so much power. He went easier on the air conditioner. And this is part of what “Green” is supposed to mean — the greater green.

So Curry’s grass says something larger about living in the middle of the Mojave Desert: My lawn isn’t crazy. Yours is.

There’s something in the American psyche that loves a big green lawn. Pushing that mower around is a national paradigm, part heinous chore, part point of pride.

In Clark County, about 30 percent of water consumed is used outdoors. And sure, you get a check from the water authority for ripping out healthy grass and putting down rock, but Curry would rather spend the few thousand dollars that costs on, “Oh, you know, health care.”

His downtown Las Vegas neighbors are either happy with the lawn, ambivalent, or weren’t home when the Sun knocked.

Mark Melnick, two houses down, sees it as a “statement of conservation.”

Norma Rodriguez, across the street, admired Curry’s paint job the way you would a newly coated garage — nice, even, careful. As for the art element, she was indifferent: “It’s whatever,” she said. Happily, there is no homeowners association.

For now, Curry has cash to buy more paint for his personal projects — large, color wash paintings with words running across them in the precise font he’s mastered on canvas and now, grass.

Perhaps the next painting will happen in his back yard, in blue: “Pool.”

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