An inside look into Shimmering Zen.
In our latest podcast episode, American multi-media artist James Stanford tells of the extraordinary experience that convinced him to become an artist, how his art is influenced by his Zen Buddhist beliefs and about his love for his hometown of Las Vegas.
James Stanford’s dad packed up the household in the 1940s, and drove from Texas to Las Vegas to coach high school football. The older sons donned shoulder pads, but the youngest, a strapping figure who looks like he’d be comfortable guiding a horse on the high plains, had broader ideas for himself and Las Vegas. An ambassador for this western City of Lights, James helms Smallworks Press when not creating the coruscating mandalas that culminated in Shimmering Zen at 2018’s Asian Art in London. I visited him and wife Lynn (a Mighty Muse!) in their stomping grounds where I toured the Neon Museum, Yayoi Kusama’s Inifinity Room and wandered through a mesquite grove in the middle of town.
Kaleidoscope breaks us from our real world and takes us to places where there are entirely magical visuals. James Stanford reflects this magic in his artwork and offers us the opportunity to enjoy this world without the need for kaleidoscope.
There are many kinds of art, and their common side is the creativity of the artists. The works of art which combine different artistic theories are the most mysterious ones. Kaleidoscopic art doesn’t make much sense when you first hear it, but as soon as you see the works, you dive deeper. James Stanford combined photography, digital artwork, painting and drawing in his artworks
Photo montages of Las Vegas landmarks and neon signs by James Stanford are on display in the exhibit “New Illuminated Portals in Las Vegas: Backlit Lenticulars.” Soho Lofts, 900 Las Vegas Blvd. South. shimmeringzen.com
Our weekly artist profile. This week we are tantalized by the light with digital artist James Stanford.
Perhaps no place exemplifies samsara in the American imagination more than Las Vegas, the intoxicating gambling den marked by greed and desire. But the artist and Las Vegas native James Stanford sees something different in Sin City: Zen. He creates dazzling modern mandalas by digitally manipulating photographs of the Mojave Desert and vintage neon signs. “We think the dharma is outside of us,” Stanford told Tricycle. “I asked myself, why look far away for the answers when they are right here in my own backyard? Las Vegas exemplifies the nonduality of nirvana and samsara.”
Artist James Stanford re-imagines Las Vegas’s iconic neons
The Vegas native is re-purposing the city’s neon signs and landmarks by layering original photographs to create striking digital mosaics Soho Lofts, located in the city’s Arts District, hosts PORTALS, a pop-up installation of Stanford’s backlit lenticulars. Exhibited works are inspired by classic photographs of the Tropicana Casino and Hotel. Motivated by the Bauhaus movement and Stanford’s interest in Buddhism, his kaleidoscopic works evoke the extravagance of Vegas through traditional photography and experimental digital art.
Standout Quote: “I can’t remember when I was unaware of the magic and power of art.”
A lifelong explorer of the visual arts, James Stanford has a storied history that has spanned more than five decades in the Las Vegas art scene. Educator, business man, activist, creative innovator and early adopter of the technological marriage that exists between traditional, straightforward modalities and the new world of computer manipulation, Stanford’s artwork uses stunning imagery to create movement and provocative visuals that challenge the eye. His latest project, a book and travelling photomontage exhibition entitled Shimmering Zen, draws inspiration from saved imagery from the iconic structures and signage of his Vegas youth. A kaleidoscope of visual excitement and spiritual reflection, Shimmering Zen pays homage to a life inspired by beauty, the beast, and a few things in between.
Born and raised in Vegas, you got your Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at UNLV, yet most of what you do now is digital. How did this come about?
I graduated with a BFA in painting in the first graduating class in the newly formed BFA program at UNLV, then was accepted into the Masters of Fine Arts Painting Program at the University of Washington. After graduating from Washington, I came back home to Las Vegas. I wound up taking a job as a black jack dealer to try and pay off some college debts. It was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. It was an opportunity for me to learn more about life. I started teaching drawing at UNLV, became a technical illustrator, then, in 1986, formed my own graphics studio. It was through this transition that I discovered digital art. I started the first graphics studio in Las Vegas to make the transformation from traditional skills to Macintosh computers. By 1987 we had abandoned chemical typesetting and copy cameras and had entered the world of Photoshop and Illustrator.
Las Vegas designer, David Tupaz presented his 2019 collection at the West Sahara Library, The Studio “Art Galleries” (formerly the Fine Art Museum ) during the exhibition of “Shimmering Zen” by James Stanford. David’s collection was inspired by the Artist’s work and it showed in his choice of colors and shapes and the overall look of the collection.