by Mat Gleason
James Stanford understands the allure of Las Vegas, the glamour, the dizziness, and the ecstasy of it all. He has crystallized the sensory overload that the city’s glitz creates in the mind. His abstract kaleidoscope compositions deliver the sensuous pulse of sin city. The artist performs an almost alchemical feat - he simplifies the visual language of Las Vegas and yet simultaneously amplifies it.
This feat is not an endeavor anyone else has particularly mastered. Stanford starts with the subject of Vegas. First he must find the sources that epitomize the subject in order to capture the essence. There is so much to choose from in this diverse, pulsating city. Think of all the icons, think of all the slogans. Showgirls used to be a signifier of the city. Slot machines, too. But time marches on. Sure “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is memorable, but it only encompasses part of the city’s allure. Because visual art can go beyond the literal, it must. James Stanford knows this and started out with two simple, related things that visually herald Las Vegas: the artificially colored light and the contrasts it makes.
The artist bravely chooses to reduce the city and the experience of tens of millions of tourists a year into the contours of one simple element among the varied visual possibilities. This comes at great risk to the project. Throwing out so much of what we know, what we enjoy and what we seek is a denial of so much of the experience. And yet, great art reduces. The Mona Lisa isn’t smiling for any specific, acknowledged reason. By reducing the experience, Da Vinci opened up the possibilities for what might be. As such, choosing the thing to be arrived at after reducing down the elements is only the first part of the process.
Those lights, that multicolored orgy for the eyes - and always contrasted against stark backdrops, landscapes and architecture everywhere you look. Jame Stanford has reduced the experience of Las Vegas to just this, but now he finds a way to avoid the infinite number of ways to depict this subject. He creates a vision that is his own, but one that amplifies the simplicity of the elements with which he is working. The symbol of Vegas might be the light and design of the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. But an artist must go beyond the pizzazz of good design. An artist must deliver the experience of the essay, the dizziness and the power of the feeling of the infinite that Las Vegas delivers to a plurality of its visitors.
It is in the eternal nature of the multiple reflection that this artist has delivered the ultimate rendering of the Vegas experience without resorting to dated design motifs. By having the light and texture of Vegas composed in a mirror image, we get the timelessness of living the dream. There is no font or date or lock us in to (or out of) an era; no, we float with all that has come before and will occur ever after on The Strip. The blissful moment of conquering that town is crystallized in these sleek masterpieces. The vision of this artist is the never ending thrill that only one city in the world can bring.