First time in, you might think Reno is where the desperate go to die, and that does happen with some frequency.

Muriel did not go there for that purpose, or for any other reason. She bounced out of Berkeley and somehow landed in Reno, got off the bus and stayed. She saw the river and it came to her that she would be shorting herself not to live near a river. And it was July, when the entire month is about art.

Dada goes wild in Reno in July. Every kind of artist from chain saw sculptors to bifocalled pointillists, middle-aged punks to schizoid collagers, visionary cowboys to Jack Mormon surrealists, all take over some low rent motels, move out the furniture and open pop-up studio/galleries. Art lovers are free to wander from room to room. They call the movement “Nadadada,” and it can get freaky.

Muriel had an iPhone, and after scouring the back alleys of Reno for detritus she used it to put together a portfolio of found objects arranged in juxtapositions. She called the results post-studio sculptures and gave them titles like, “The Passionate Tumult of a Clinging Hope.” She composed a vita that included an imaginary MFA from Toronto and a modest number of individual shows in fictitious galleries in New York, Philadelphia, and Munich. She added an indecipherable “Artist’s Statement” and submitted it all to a committee. Called for an interview, she so dazzled the two men and three women with her passion that they awarded her a cheap riverside loft subsidized by the city for juried artists.

Reno has more artists, per capita, than Paris. Marcel Duchamp turned them all loose when he said that art is what the artist says is art. No bad art exists, and for that matter no good art either, only art that succeeds or fails at what art is supposed to do, and nobody knows what art is supposed to do. Muriel comes close.

(Why keep it to yourself? Pass it on.)