New SAMFA exhibit features work of Austin-based neon light sculptor.


Thirty years ago, neon light sculptor, Ben Livingston, began to see a neon sign as more than just a series of tubes and vibrant colors.

Now he sees it as an art form.

“I thought wow. If I could do this, I could draw with light like a crayon,” Livingston says, explaining his fascination with neon lights after seeing an old Dutch Masters neon sign.

After taking glass bender courses in Wisconsin, he started making neon light pieces for people in his life who were sick or terminally ill.

“The intention was to allow the families of those loved ones to call up the moment of them being with their family member who was dying,” Livingston explains. “When they die, they could always hold onto that memory.”

Livingston called his neon creations “spirit antennas”–though much of his inspiration comes from the “Spirit Houses” of Southeast Asian culture.

The neon light tubes are a symbol of life.

“This is so fragile, much like life is. It’s so forceful when its alive, like we are in so many ways but with a flick–it could snuff out whatever it once was and it’ll be gone. And all we’d have left is some broken glass and the memory of the light that was once there,” Livingston says.

The pieces of wood in his sculptures represent the natural environment our life is surrounded by.

Some of which were picked up from a barn in Wall that had collapsed.

He says the craft of neon light sculpting requires much respect, as its not only more than 100 years old–it also takes a mixture of fire, glass, mercury and asbestos (“Yeah it’s very dangerous”) to get your sculpture in the form you planned.

The “Spirit Houses” exhibit will open at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts on December 15, 2017 and will run into 2018–ending on February 4th.

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