For her latest project, local artist Mikayla Whitmore will look to recapture vintage Vegas—through her eyes and those of the community. Whitmore, a Weekly photographer, is calling on you to help populate her exhibit, This Time Around, as part of her artist-in-residency program at the Neon Museum. The work will combine markers, glitter and miniature versions of iconic Vegas marquees, which will be installed in a diorama and then photographed to appear lifelike. The photos will be displayed at UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum from September 20 through October 7. All ages are welcome to attend the free, sign-making workshops; preregistration is required.
What inspired you to embark on this project? I was born and raised out here. And, lately, a lot of my personal photos have been of different signs on Boulder Highway. Lots of marquees. When standing there, I’ll notice there’s a light pole in the way … just ugly urban-ness that gets in the way. I wanted to isolate the image, and the sign.
How did you choose the title This Time Around? It’s kind of referencing nostalgia, in the sense that everything is always changing. Las Vegas is always building and tearing down these facades.
What are you most excited for about this exhibit? This is the first time that I’m really asking people to help with a piece, and the way the piece looks is going to reflect that. I’m excited for engaging and interacting with the public to create it. Especially since often times I am photo-based. [Photography is] a much more singular, introverted exercise, so this is really going to push my comfort and practices into a new direction that I’m really excited to see.
How will the participants help create the signs? It’s up to the hands of the creator and their creativity, but they will be based on real marquees. They’ll be able to use cardstock, glitter, markers and paint. They can be as detailed or as minimal as they want. We want to get the community involved and try to create a piece that has many hands and a lot of input.
How are you going to build the diorama? I’m going to use Styrofoam covered in stand and dust to make a desert base. Then I’ll put pins into the cardstock and pop the signs right in, like a Lego set. A modular Strip.
How many signs are you expecting to be made? There will be three sessions of about 30 people, so maybe 90 signs. Hopefully I’ll get a lot, so I can pick and choose. Not everyone’s will be in it. I have to see what’s built, what’s created and go from there.
What are your favorite spots in Las Vegas, whether they’re gone now or not? The giant golden lion at MGM, when you could walk through its mouth. Slots A Fun at Circus Circus—super-cheap drinks and very good people-watching. It’s a type of Las Vegas that’s very different in contrast to a nightclub or high-end cocktail bar.
Some of my fondest memories and the places I love the most end up being destroyed or are no longer there, because they don’t generate enough revenue or aren’t as flashy as other venues that might appeal more to visitors. They’re these overlooked areas. But they are my favorites.
What are some of your favorite local signs? Definitely the Circus Circus marquee. Where else are you gonna see a giant, gargantuan clown? It reminds me of Honey I Shrunk the Kids, where the giant baby is going down the street crushing everything. Another sign I really love is the Desert Moon. The kitschier the better.
Also, the Roadrunner down on Boulder Highway. That sign is covered in neon to the brim. That’s the purpose of signs: to pull you off and get you in from the side of the road.
How do you feel about modern signs? They have their place, but they’re not the same. LED is a very different game than neon, environmentally and visually.
What do you love about neon signs? They look so cool, and they make a sound. Neon is leached into my bloodstream. Whenever I go somewhere, I’m always attracted to neon or glitz. The more glitter on something the better. [For This Time Around,] I want every surface covered with glitter. I want my signs pelted with glitter.
This Time Around On display September 20-October 7, UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum. Free workshops at the Neon Museum, September 17 at noon, 1:30 and 3 p.m., 702-387-6366.