Neon and wood aren’t the most likely of combinations, but Keith Lemley welds the two very different mediums into conversation with his neon art creations.
“My work is about seeing the unseen – the invisible presence which exists in our minds and surrounds all objects, experiences, and memories. I have developed a keen interest in being part of and observing natural systems, time and the process of life and death, and an aesthetic sensibility synthesizing the organic and the machine.”
Artist states: “I focus on the potential of materials and environments to be more and different than how they are currently perceived and understood; fulfilling an innate desire to explore, discover, and wonder. Drawing attention to physiological systems of vision, thought, and memory, I am interested in making conspicuous our perceptions of ourselves, reality, and time.”
“It’s a lot like drawing in space, is how I like to think of it,” Lemley tells CH of making and bending the neon tubing in his studio. And it was near this studio, in the West Virginia woods, that he came across a large chestnut oak tree that had submitted to its old age and fallen over. He refers to it as an “interesting tree” he had seen every day on his walks around the hill. Inspired, he decided to take a chainsaw to it and start playing around to see what would come out of it. Toward the end, Lemley wound up building an Alaskan mill to make straighter cuts.
“I kept playing with the form some, as I got a little bit better at using the chainsaw jig,” he chuckles. Lemley also notes that he was interested in creating shapes with the wood that were not complete on their own, but needed the neon to become whole, compositionally. “So that both things needed the other,” he says. “I liked how the neon kind of emphasized parts of the angularity and the different planar surfaces on the wood.”
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