Materializing artistic visions conceived in 2D for screens in space is not easy. Whether they are digital or analogue works, whether they are video games or paintings, the result often leaves something to be desired, as any child knows who finds himself holding the puppets of the protagonists of comics and cartoons, always a little different from as we imagined them, for proportions, materials, expressions. Nevertheless Neon Saltwater immediately accepted the invitation of Justkids that for the Life is Beautiful Music Festival 2022 he asked her to breathe new life and, it should be said, new light, into one 1930s gas station on Fremont Street, Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas is even more than I ever imagined. I was really surprised by how much inspiration I felt. I had a great time at the festival and loved seeing the energy flowing in and out of the space. Typically, festival guests are there to have the most fun and to experience a sense of escape from their lives, so it seemed like an appropriate context for my work.”
Neon Saltwater, a 32-year-old originally from Seattle, was a dive into her own world, seasoned with the irresistible vibe of the city of entertainment par excellence. She, who defines herself as too much an artist to be a designer, and too much a designer to be an artist, has accustomed us to impossible and dreamy architectures, and for the first time she was able to work with a leitmotiv of her work: neon. The installation is titled Mystery Cruise ’90a tribute to his year of birth but also to the aesthetics of a decade that smacks of nostalgia, expertly ridden even on TV by series such as Stranger Things. After all, neon also derives directly from those years for the artist, since he remembers the first time he saw one.
Part spooky diner, part horror amusement park, Mystery Cruise ’90 immerses us in a bombastic and paranormal world where everything is possible, thanks to experiments with dubious ethics, from which alien life forms, suburban adventures, or great upheavals for the whole world could be born. It is inspired by old advertisements, magazines, random polaroids, the color palettes of old films…
“This installation it was an opportunity for me to adjust to a building in vegas that is abandoned and has been many things in the past. The shape already looked like something I would create in 3D, so it was perfect. It reminded me of a convenience store and I wanted to turn it into something resembling ecstasy, using color and light. Many of my digital works depict ordinary places, such as ATMs, shopping malls, corridors, lobbies, offices, lobbies, hotels, convenience stores, shops, and my goal is always to render these spaces in amplified versions, while maintaining very family members. This installation is an exaggerated version of a gas station or convenience store in an abstract way. There are creepy elements, like the hand-drawn font inspired by horror novels from the 80s and 90s, and the plants in the bright room.”
In a rather confined space, the suggestions are truly multiple, and change at every corner, with a sense of surprise, a very stimulating twist. The exterior might still resemble a futuristic station for some post-apocalyptic form of transportation, with a nutty scientist at the helm. But inside we can glimpse the silhouettes of a strangely lush vegetation, growing in an unnatural light that does not bode well if it were released… Inside, a metal bedroom opens onto a desert landscape, and what should being a convenience store slaps us with saturated and unhealthy colors.
An impossible architecture descends to Earth to give us that thrill of adventure where only a handful of little heroes can save us.