Seeing the light
June 27, 2021 § Leave a comment
“I CREATE one-of-a-kind neon sculptures,” says Santa Barbara artist Rod Lathim. “The art of neon has been around since the time of Tesla and Edison. But it is becoming a lost art.”
Lathim is a fifth generation Santa Barbaran. He was an assemblage artist for 16 years before beginning to work with neon. He is also widely known as a director-producer-playwright who ran his own theater company for two decades and is president emeritus of Santa Barbara’s Marjorie Luke Theater.
“I enjoy creating pieces that evoke stories from viewers — or simply offer a taste of whimsy, color and light,” he says. “My career has been built around creating and telling stories of the human condition, hope, spiritual journeys, redemption and triumph. I like to think that this same spirit lives in my visual art.”
Lathim began working with neon a few years ago when his creative energy began generating images for sculptural pieces that had neon in them. “But I knew nothing about neon,” he says. So he began researching and learning. He collaborates with a glass blower who bends pieces to his designs, and sometimes with Los Angeles artist George V. Wolf, adding neon to Wolf’s paintings. In some works he incorporates vintage objects.
“I use real old-school neon — glass tubes that are pumped with various gasses including neon, argon and krypton,” Lathim says, “and I use colors not traditionally seen in neon pieces.” His work uses solid neon and sometimes beaded neon, a rarely seen type of neon that makes a chain of tiny beads of light that travel through the glass tubes.
“I am drawn to the ethereal essence of the light created by neon,” he says. “It is really pure energy, created by gas combusting with electrical current — the closest semblance to spiritual energy in the physical world.”