James Stanford utilizes the latest in digital art technique to create mesmerizing mandala designs from digital photos of historic Las Vegas neon signage, and architectural elements from the 1950s and 1960s. Stanford's group of intriguing digital montages convey and respond to the potency of the mandala as a symbol, and its influence and importance to Asian culture worldwide. Shimmering Zen is 264 pages and consists of over 150 of Stanford's original works created over the past 15 years. Includes comprehensive essays by the artist, the curator Elizabeth Herridge and a foreword by Jeff Rosen, Vice President, The Higher Learning Commission, Evanston, Illinois. Author interview by Laura Henkel. The launch of the book is supported by an exhibition of Stanford's visually stunning and intricately constructed modern mandala series, entitled "Indra's Jewels."
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About the Author
American multimedia artist James Stanford has earned an international reputation for an innovative and diverse oeuvre founded on the values of artistic experimentation and meditative practice. Working inventively in a wide range of media and genres, Stanford is celebrated today for his pictorial orchestrations drawing primarily upon the iconic vintage signage of Las Vegas. This subject matter ties into a long-term interest in the study and transformation of popular culture from the region, most widely known in the abstract meditative re-configurations in his Lenticular works (2016-2018), the Indra’s Jewels series (2013-15) and the prismatic Shimmering Zen series (2016-18). These images are widely recognized for a sense of radiant light, shadowy space and an infinity of crystalline forms, aptly named modern mandalas. And so, while Stanford may pull images from popular culture as a whole the artist’s work responds to esoteric interests, visual expressions of religiosity and spirituality, Zen Buddhism, and metaphysical concepts, including the creation of illusionistic fictive space. The artist describes his approach and the transformation of Las Vegas signage within his process: “I feel that through the alchemy of seeing the beauty in these discarded signs, I am able to transform the profane into the sacred. The Shimmering Zen series is more than formal compositions of abstractions that don’t really mean anything. These works are part of my practice: meditations, and as such they act as guides to help the viewer gaze deeper into who we really are. Popular culture can teach us all a lot about who we really are and show us our correct relationship to the universe.” Stanford’s collaborative spirit and fluidity of imagination allows the artist to work in many mediums. His practice includes photography both traditional and digital, assemblage, lenticulars and projections, installations, videos, painting, drawing, muralism and textiles as well. In 2018, fashion designer David Tupaz was so intrigued by the works pictured in Stanford’s Shimmering Zen book that he asked the artist to create scarves and last year the designer’s New York Fashion Week runway show was inspired by Stanford’s work and featured a projection as well of Stanford’s creation. This year Stanford premiered a new series of extraordinary silk scarves made by the same Italian manufacturer who produces Hermès scarves and featuring artwork from the Shimmering Zen and Indra’ Jewels series in conjunction with Tupaz’ SS19 line at Style Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week. On an entirely different scale, Stanford’s new mural project titled "A Phalanx of Angels Ascending" premieres in June 2019. This 2,000 square foot mural too incorporates the world of neon signs, photography and illusory space. The work is inspired by "Our Lady of Las Vegas"—Betty Willis’ seventeen-foot Blue Angel statue dismantled from East Fremont Street and currently undergoing restoration at the Neon Museum. Stanford’s interpretation was created digitally and incorporates new images of angels including angels on a half shell and rocket angels as well. This large-scale work will include all four sides of the 705 building and will be executed by the famed street artist Cliff Morris (Cliff Airbrushing). This project represents an evolution of form for Stanford who in the mid-eighties studied fresco painting with the renown masters Lucienne Bloch and Stephen Pope Dimitroff, former assistants to Diego Rivera. Processes of transformation, multiplicity and the concept of the artistic image as an object of contemplation converge in this project, reflecting the artist’s unique approach to making work that functions as a meditative practice centered around the creative transformation of the profane into the sacred. Indeed, in every series and new experimental genre, Stanford creates work that is in part a meditation. There is in Stanford’s modern mandalas a dissembled and reworked dance of balance and imbalance that contemplatively engages the viewer, creating symbiotically a dialogue about value found within tension found in opposites. Stanford studied painting at the University of Washington (UW) (MFA) and the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) (BFA). Select solo exhibitions include Sahara West Library, Las Vegas, 2018, Asian Art in London, London, 2017 and the "Shimmering Zen," City Hall public installation, City of Las Vegas, 2017-present. Stanford’s work in found in numerous international private collections in the United States and the United Kingdom as well as the Clark County Public Library, Las Vegas and the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas among others. In addition to his artistic career, Stanford has taught at UNLV and UW, established the Smallworks Gallery, and curated exhibitions at various venues, including the Las Vegas Contemporary Arts Center. During his tenure as Las Vegas Arts Commissioner, the artist developed Lightscapes a program that has been recognized by Art in America as one of the top 20 public art projects. In addition, Stanford is an independent book publisher heading Smallworks Press which features books on arts and culture such as Street Art Las Vegas, Motel Vegas and Compass of the Ephemeral with distribution through Independent Publishers Group.
Robyn Flemming is an Australian professional who provides editing and proofreading services to publishers, businesses, organisations, academic institutions and individuals. Flemming has extensive experience in the areas of business, finance, economics, marketing, management, law, history, art, health and wellbeing, travel and many other subjects.
Elizabeth Herridge specialises in museum management, marketing, fundraising and development. She shares her expertise as an art advisor with individuals and institutions and, as a specialist in Late Qing Dynasty jewellery and related materials, provides consulting services to private dealers and other interested parties. Elizabeth is a graduate of Wellesley College (B.A. French) and has an M.A. in Art and Archaeology (Asian Art) from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, U.K., as well as an M.A. in Connoisseurship and the Art and Auction Market from Christie's Education, New York. She is also a graduate of the Getty Leadership Institute's Museum Leadership Program (MLI) and is fluent in French.
Jeff Rosen is an academic leader possessing senior administrative experience, including higher education accreditation, school leadership in complex research universities, and faculty teaching experience at the graduate and undergraduate level. Recognized strengths in strategic planning, new program development and curriculum design, board leadership, budget management and forecasting, fund raising, faculty leadership, scholarship in the history of photography. Extensive supervisory and public speaking experience.
Dr. Laura Henkel is a seasoned consultant for contemporary art projects and specialized global ventures. Having served in various executive leadership roles over the past 14 years, her entrepreneurial and collaborative spirit provides successful results to stakeholders, corporations and nonprofits. With over 400+ installations and exhibitions, inclusive of complex logistical coordination of objects and people, she designs facilities and public venues for the permanent and temporary placement of art and educational programming. Having stewarded art facilities from concept to activation, she is known for her ability to streamline facility operations, strategize marketing, and steward media relations to reach broad audiences. Well respected for her understanding of the art market, historic knowledge of avant-garde art, erotica and collecting the obscure, Dr. Henkel has a become a key figure in the exhibition and interpretation of provocative art that pushes the boundaries of experimentation. She is relied on by international artists, collectors, and museums for her unparalleled expertise and frequently worldwide for special projects and art appraisals.