UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art

The Chief Mourner and the Last Drops

The Chief Mourner and the Last Drops, 2017
Two color lithographs
Edition of 40
Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art Collection
Gift of the artist

A New Zealander who has lived in Las Vegas for almost a decade, Matthew Couper is interested in cultural incongruities. “Because I’m not from here I’m trying to put together things that don’t go together,” he explains. In The Last Drop he merges imagery from the southern hemisphere with an iconic North American eagle and more universally applicable images of coffins, ghosts, and a dowsing rod to chronicle the drying of Lake Mead. The figure is borrowed from drawings of a Tahitian Chief Mourner made by Tupaia and Herman Diedrich Sporing, two men who accompanied the British navigator Captain Cook on his first voyage to New Zealand in 1769–70. The machine in front of the mourner is a water pump. The straw in the bottom right corner represents the uptake pipes that connect Las Vegas to ever-deeper water supplies. Couper notes that the third and final straw added to Lake Mead was referred to as the ”The Last Straw” when it was being installed in 2015. The constellation in the sky over the Mourner is the Southern Cross, a common sight south of the equator. The dowsing rod is accompanied by Alpha and Omega symbols, signs that something has run its course. Couper, a painter, made this lithograph on an invitational residency with Idem, a fine art printing studio in Montparnasse, Paris, France. (DKS)

To watch our Virtual Tour of this piece, please click on the following link: Barrick Museum of Art Virtual Tour - Matthew Couper.

  • Framed: 30 x 22.25 x 1 in
  • Created: 2017
  • Inventory Number: 2019.15.002
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