Shimmering Zen – An Interpretation of Vintage Las Vegas Neon Signs

Shimmering Zen – An Interpretation of Vintage Las Vegas Neon Signs October 20, 2018

At The Studio-Sahara Library in Las Vegas, Contemporary artist James Stanford presents a new exhibition featuring kaleidoscopic photomontages of vintage Las Vegas landmarks and its infamous neon signs. Now through November 24th, 2018. Film by Eric Minh Swenson.

“We’ve never seen anyone accomplish what James Stanford has done with these stunning works of art. They’re absolutely mesmerizing.”

— Rob McCoy, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Neon Museum

For the first time in North America, Las Vegas artist James Stanford introduced his photography book, “Shimmering Zen,” which features a unique interpretation of vintage Las Vegas neon signs and architectural elements through innovative purpose-specific digital technology and Zen Buddhism. The book is being published by Smallworks Press, a specialty arts and publication company.

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

The Shimmering Zen first premiered at the 20th Anniversary of Asia Art in London, the global hub of Asian contemporary art and antiquities featuring more than 60 of the world’s top dealers, major auction houses and museums for an annual 10-day celebration of the finest in Asian art. 

The Shimmering Zen book launch in USA, discussion and reception was held at the Neon Museum’s Ne10 Studio in downtown Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 13. The nonprofit museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment. Neon Museum President and Chief Executive Officer Rob McCoy joined Stanford in the discussion. Portion of book sales will be donated to the museum.

James Stanford is a Las Vegas native and Zen Buddhist and combines his love of the city – particularly from the 1950s and 1960s – and philosophy with art for conceptually complex and visually captivating images that invite contemplation of both spiritual and material realities. His 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. “When you open up your mind, you become so full of this one vision, everything becomes pure energy, pure light. That’s Shimmering Zen. And incorporating iconic Las Vegas images for their beauty, uniqueness and historical significance in the city and my life makes this book even more special.”

A companion Shimmering Zen exhibit recently opened at The Studio at the Sahara West Library, also in Las Vegas, and runs through Nov. 24. It features 46 works Stanford created during the past 20 years. Stanford also has included new works inspired by his recent visit to London, such as a large scale triptych (96’’ X 192’’) printed on metal and composed of three mirrored montages featuring Buckingham Palace, entitled Trioca Pentaptyc.  – GM

The Ne10 Studio is located at 1001 W. Bonanza Road, Las Vegas, Nev., 89106. For information, visit

James Stanford
Lucky Lady
Circus Circus
Binions Variations

Article by Nancy Katz

Share this article: