Neon has always attracted me, like a moth to a flame. The simple handmade lettering and images of light and color bent from glass tubing has always fascinated me. I have always wanted to explore neon and, it just so happened that opportunity presented itself when I was working in Mumbai, India. Off work for the day, I explored the city where I found a discarded teacup neon sign on top of an overflowing trashcan that decorated the street. Instantly, its beauty caught my eye and so I rescued it from the rubble. This was the beginning of my adventure with neon. I carefully wrapped my unusual teacup and shipped it back to the States.
Around the time I encountered the neon piece in India, I had just started work on my Ostensibly Colored Monochromatic Screen series. While working in Mumbai, I was researching signs and movie screens around the city, therefore, finding the ‘teacup’ was just one piece of the puzzle for my new series. I have always enjoyed the use of light and color in my work and my photography background included many hours in the darkroom manipulating light. Consequently, my venture into neon has proven to be a perfect and wonderful medium for my ideas and practice.
Having been a long time ‘creeper’ student of James Turrell, I’ve always enjoyed the soft movement of color that a neon sign produces. However, unlike Turrell’s solid light color, I was looking for movement. Neon has this ethereal cloud-like movement where the gases are always moving and creating color. It is this very subtle movement of color that makes neon appealing to me. Space issues hampered my ability to explore neon since room is needed to work with neon as it is fragile and tends to be dangerous to work with. Danger manifests as an element of surprise where tubes might pop, blow, or you get burnt, perhaps shocked, all of which is somewhat unnerving. When I finally acquired a larger studio, it allowed me to work with neon so I could extend my body of work to include neon pieces. Neon pieces are harder to work with than any other material I have used or worked with in the past.
My neon pieces are strongly influenced by a running theme in my work that I refer to as: The Cowboy System and The Indian System, both systems relating to our modern condition. The Cowboy System represents the consumer culture where the ‘sky’s-the-limit’ type thinking. In contrast, the Indian System represents the more sustainable natural system: a culture of the soul and concern for the soil. These themes ask questions: Is mankind able to survive consumer culture, a seemingly flat culture, that is turning all cultures into one homogenous goop for sale? How do I represent this?
What recent technology gave birth to this hyper place we seem to have arrived at? Figuratively speaking, could it be neon perhaps? I figure neon could reasonably reflect this technological phenomenon that is contributing to what I call a hyper flat culture.