Lariat Hotel, Fallon, NV, 1989

Western Neon

During the course of my lifetime exploration of the American West, I have amassed numerous images of these icons of the mythical frontier. Seen together they document vanishing traces of the failures and dreams of the west. Some carefully maintained, others falling into ruin, each unique sign speaks of the visions of those who created and installed it, their hopes and dreams for a bright future.

En-route, while traveling in the desert mountains of the west in California, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Montana and Arizona I became very aware of a singe iconic presence that symbolized the myth of the "West." I ran across it first in the Royal Theater neon sign in the "Last Picture Show" a book and screenplay by Larry McMurtry, a sputtering glimmer of hope in a dying West Texas town. I found it in a buffalo's profile greeting drinkers entering a bar in Nevada, the irony not lost as one thinks about of the millions of these beasts that once roamed the west that we have hunted to near extinction. Instead of the buffalo we are left now with just a neon sign of a martini glass. The mythologies of the west are embodied in these neon signs. Much of the contemporary signage does not carry the same meaning, concept and craft. The classic neon handmade sign expressed personal vision and unique qualities and designs formed from sheet metal and bent glass tubes filled with mysterious colored gases, sometimes hand-painted with very vivid background colors. Especially as they age and fade these signs reveal the touch of the maker's hand. The photographs that I have made over my travels are meant to be clear and to express the nature of the objects themselves and capture them, saving them from the unkind hands of time.