Skaneateles artist creates 3D sculpture out of 2D neon lights

Immersive light and sound exhibit to open May 6

AUBURN, NY (April 21, 2022) – Skaneateles artist Lorne Covington was interested in learning the art of making neon tubes, so he decided to take a class. And he learned something that sparked a 20-year passion: LED lights were replacing neon, and when neon shops shut down, they sent the tubes to the landfill.

“As LED lighting has gotten progressively cheaper, most neon sign shops have either closed down or switched to using LEDs,” he said. “With no further market demand to drive new workers to learn the craft, the direct knowledge of how to make neon lighting is residing in fewer and fewer people.”

Covington decided that instead of learning to make new neon, he would salvage abandoned stashes and reuse them in a sculpture. “‘Recycled Light’ is the first such installation of salvaged neon, drawn from a collection of over 400 neon tubes in all shapes, colors, and many words and letters – many likely well over 50 years old,” he said.

His exhibition, “Recycled Light: An Ode to Neon,” has been a work in progress since March 26 and will have its official opening 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 6, at the Schweinfurth Art Center. The exhibit closes May 15.

“We are excited to have Lorne creating a 3D sculpture out of 2D neon lights,” said Schweinfurth Program Director Davana Robedee. “His work is inventive and immersive, so visitors enjoy a unique experience.”

Covington has created many other immersive, interactive light and sound exhibits as NOIRFLUX, a name taken to invoke the idea of motion in the dark. Several of his works have been on display at the Museum of Science & Technology in Syracuse; the Port Authority bus terminal in New York City; Artechouse in Washington, DC; and the Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building in Washington, DC.

Paradise, an interactive sound exhibit created by Covington and Doug Quin, first appeared at the Schweinfurth in 2017 before being presented at the Venice International Performance Art Week in Venice, Italy.

Neon lighting is a process of generating light by passing electricity through a noble gas. While neon is often used, argon and xenon can also be used. When properly made, the lights have an extremely long lifetime, measured in decades of continuous use.

Covington built wooden triangles from which he hung the neon tubes. The triangles are lifted toward the high ceiling in the Schweinfurth’s second floor Davis Family Gallery, so visitors can walk underneath and trigger them to turn on with their motion. He also installed four speakers in the room that produce an ambient sonic environment of Balinese Gamelan sounds in sync with the lights.

The lights come in many different shapes and colors. They spell out words like Concierge, VIP Room, and FREE TV. “I hope to give viewers the ability to see this part of our popular culture in a new way, as the raw beauty of light that it is,” Covington said.

If you go …

WHAT: Official opening of “Recycled Light: An Ode to Neon”
WHO: Skaneateles artist Lorne Covington
WHEN: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 6, 2022
WHERE: Schweinfurth Art Center, 205 Genesee St., Auburn
DETAILS: Covington will give an Artist Talk about his piece at 6 p.m. during the opening
COST: The opening is free and open to the public. The exhibit is on display through May 15, and admission is $10 per person.