Press

James Stanford: Author of Shimmering Zen | Seattle Book Review

Stanford_Book_Ad_640x640.jpg

This October, photographer and digital artist James Stanford presents the North American launch of his monograph, Shimmering Zen.

Published in a large hardback format, Shimmering Zen is a compilation of digital montages that Stanford has created by layering original photographs of LasVegas landmarks and its iconic neon signs. The monograph presents Stanford’s designs alongside original photographs, elaborating through artist essays on the theory and practice behind his technique.

Heavily influenced by his native Las Vegas, where he is regarded as a leader and pioneer in the ar ts community, Stanford is an innovative digital artist who revisits the vibrant energy of vintage Vegas. A digital painter who transforms his iconic photographs of Las Vegas neon signs and architecture into sumptuous mandalas.

Shimmering Zen reflects Stanford’s continued interest in transforming reality into imagined realms. As an artist, he is concerned with the development of a visual expression of spirituality. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Buddhism, he conceives of his digital montages as “modern mandalas” – maps towards inner zen. > Read More

Different Way to View Las Vegas with Shimmering Zen

Aladdin (Detail)

Aladdin (Detail)

Heavily influenced by his native Las Vegas roots and surroundings, Stanford is an innovative artist who revisits the vibrant energy of 1960s Vegas with this collection. Entitled Shimmering Zen, he will feature a range of intricate digital collages of original photographs that capture the city’s iconic aesthetic and particularly its neon signs. Some of the pieces include The Neon Museum, Fremont Street, Fong’s Garden and the Circus Circus, Flamingo, Golden Nugget, Tropicana, Caesars Palace and Binion’s properties.

Stanford’s use of traditional photography and digital techniques make his Shimmering Zen work unique and compelling. Drawing on his expertise as a painter, photographer, professor of colour theory and pioneering advocate of new technologies in digital art, he layers photographs to create and discover patterns in familiar, yet completely revitalised, images with bold colors and intricate patterns that create mesmerising designs.

Shimmering Zen also reflects Stanford’s continued interest in transforming reality into imagined realms. As an artist, he is concerned with the development of a visual expression of spirituality. Drawing on the ancient traditions of Buddhism, he conceives his digital montages as “modern mandalas” – maps toward inner zen. His work responds to the potency of the “mandala” as a symbol and its influence and importance to cultures worldwide.

> Read More

Zen Man | Desert Companion Magazine

James Stanford, Desert Companion 2018

Jim Stanford makes art at the shimmering, surprisingly symmetrical intersection of Las Vegas and Buddhism

In the mid-’80s, tired of the life of an adjunct art teacher at UNLV, painter Jim Stanford opened a commercial design business — and kicked off an unexpected (and ongoing) evolution in his fine art. It turned out that his day-job tools, computers loaded with design programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator, handily solved a problem he had with painting: its slooooowness. “I basically got tired of the piece before I got done with it,” he recalls. At every step Stanford kept imagining the many things he could have done with the image but didn’t have time to try. He was, he says, “outgrowing the work” in real time. But Photoshop? It’s fast. Before long, the digital collages he created to speed up the concepting of his paintings became the focus of his artistic practice. “I was literally able to keep up with my growth as an artist.”

In the three decades since, Stanford has done a lot: opened (and eventually closed) a pioneering Downtown exhibit space, Smallworks Gallery; begun practicing Buddhism; opened (and eventually closed) a Zen center; owned, with his wife, Lynn, the iconic Bonanza Gifts. He also created thousands of digital collages, a selection of which, under the title Shimmering Zen, is now appearing in several ways: as an exhibit (opening September 27 in the Sahara West Library), in a book, even as fashion.

The phrase “digital collage” is inadequate shorthand for what Stanford’s doing. A blurt of adjectives gets us closer: They are intricate, detail-dense, neatly symmetrical, abstract, mandala-like. Most often they’re layers of accreted details cropped from photos of Vegas signage and architecture — a Sin City native’s way of honoring and exploring his hometown — and remixed in a process influenced by his Buddhist studies.

“The idea of showing these signs and turning them into objects of beauty and meditation,” he says, “to me, it was taking the profane and turning it into the sacred.”

Spend some time with Shimmering Zen, and its pieces reveal themselves as a sort of set of nesting dualities: visually complex, they are, as you might guess from the title, also meant to impart a luminescent mental stillness; being the product of intensive Photoshopping — up to 30 or 40 layers each, Stanford says — their aura is unabashedly technological, yet also unmistakably spiritual; thanks to the Photoshopping, these pieces retain a vestige of their commercial origins, but strive for the condition of fine art.

Then there’s their rigorous symmetry. In its way, Shimmering Zen claps back at the widely held artistic dislike of perfect symmetry, articulated by classic Victorian art critic John Ruskin thusly: “to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.” Symmetry = boredom, goes this thinking; it’s a cheap effect that precludes innovation and individuality. “Something about me never bought that,” Stanford says.

“A mandala is more than a symmetrical image or a kaleidoscopic image. A mandala is a road map. And if you view them lightly and gently and involve yourself in them, they can take you on a real trip. And that was my goal, to take people on a trip.”

Some of the pieces in the exhibit are “lenticular” images — several layers of the same image, each treated and colored differently, backlit and viewed through a lenticular, or striated magnifying, lens. It’s a simple effect, really, one you’ve probably seen on knickknacks and souvenirs: The picture shifts as you move in front of it. A garden-variety optical trick, you might think. Except in this case, the image is a large, richly detailed kaleidoscopic mandala. So when you move, the image shift, while brief, is pronounced, a disruptive flutter before the picture snaps back to clarity, albeit now in a different alignment. Certainty becomes uncertainty becomes a new certainty — a trip initiated by your own movement.

This fall is a big season for Shimmering Zen. In addition to the Sahara West show, its second after a London exhibit in November, Stanford’s images will be integrated into a Style Fashion Week New York presentation by couture designer David Tupaz this month; they’ll serve as runway backdrops and be imprinted on scarves. That will be followed by the October 13 launch of the expensively printed and table-bendingly large book version of Shimmering Zen with an event at the Neon Museum.

So, it’s an apotheosis moment for a 30-year project, which Stanford is trying to take in stride. “Part of Zen Buddhism is being here in the now moment and being able to inhabit it,” he says, though he can step out of his now moment long enough for a quick backward glance: “I have faith in the work,” he says. “It was worth my time doing it.”

> Read More

 

NEON MUSEUM TO HOST LAUNCH OF LAS VEGAS ARTIST JAMES STANFORD’S BOOK, “SHIMMERING ZEN”

neonLOGOVector.jpg

For the first time in North America, Las Vegas Artist James Stanford will introduce his book, “Shimmering Zen” from Smallworks Press, at the Neon Museum’s Ne10 Studio on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 6 to 9 p.m. Neon Museum President and Chief Executive Officer Rob McCoy will join Stanford for the discussion. A book signing will follow.

A Nevada native and Zen Buddhist, Stanford creates and manipulates digital photographs of vintage Las Vegas neon signs and architectural elements from the 1950s and ‘60s using purpose-specific technology. The resulting conceptually complex and visually captivating images invite contemplation of both spiritual and material realities. Stanford’s work represents an interpretation of the ancient traditions of Buddhism, drawing from historic metaphor, Chinese fable and the aesthetics of the mandala, a ritual and spiritual symbol used in both Buddhism and Hinduism to represent the universe.

“Applying modern technology to images of derelict neon signs, while incorporating the artifice of perfect symmetry, allows me to create these spiritual objects of meditation,” explains Stanford.

A large-format, hardback compilation of 150 of Stanford’s art works created over the last 15 years, “Shimmering Zen” offers insight into the artist’s creative process. In addition to these works, the book includes original images of the signs that inspired him and nostalgic tales of his life growing up in Las Vegas.

“Vintage neon signs inspire people from around the world every day who visit our Neon Museum Boneyard or see our spectacular, augmented-reality experience, ‘Brilliant,’” says McCoy. “We’ve never seen anyone accomplish what James has done, however, with these stunning works of art. They’re absolutely mesmerizing.”

The “Shimmering Zen” North American launch event at Ne10 is free to the public with books available for purchase and signing; a cash bar will also be available.

> Read More

Neon Museum Hosts Shimmering Zen Book Launch

IMG_0881.jpg

For the first time in North America, Las Vegas Artist James Stanford will introduce his book, “Shimmering Zen” from Smallworks Press, at the Neon Museum’s Ne10 Studio on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 6 to 9 p.m. Neon Museum President and Chief Executive Officer Rob McCoy will join Stanford for the discussion. A book signing will follow.

A Nevada native and Zen Buddhist, Stanford creates and manipulates digital photographs of vintage Las Vegas neon signs and architectural elements from the 1950s and ‘60s using purpose-specific technology. The resulting conceptually complex and visually captivating images invite contemplation of both spiritual and material realities. Stanford’s work represents an interpretation of the ancient traditions of Buddhism, drawing from historic metaphor, Chinese fable and the aesthetics of the mandala, a ritual and spiritual symbol used in both Buddhism and Hinduism to represent the universe.

“Applying modern technology to images of derelict neon signs, while incorporating the artifice of perfect symmetry, allows me to create these spiritual objects of meditation,” explains Stanford.

A large-format, hardback compilation of 150 of Stanford’s art works created over the last 15 years, “Shimmering Zen” offers insight into the artist’s creative process. In addition to these works, the book includes original images of the signs that inspired him and nostalgic tales of his life growing up in Las Vegas.

“Vintage neon signs inspire people from around the world every day who visit our Neon Museum Boneyard or see our spectacular, augmented-reality experience, ‘Brilliant,’” says McCoy. “We’ve never seen anyone accomplish what James has done, however, with these stunning works of art. They’re absolutely mesmerizing.”

The “Shimmering Zen” North American launch event at Ne10 is free to the public with books available for purchase and signing; a cash bar will also be available.