Seeing Las Vegas through the eyes of the Neon Museum’s new artist in residence

Wiese inside her adopted studio space.
Photo: Steve Marcus

Allison Wiese is enchanted by a sign she saw while driving around the outskirts of Downtown. No, it’s not one of the famous ones, nothing that says “Elvis Slept Here” (although she loves those as well). This one bears the remnants of a shuttered Chinese restaurant, the name of a quinceañera shop and a cryptic “cocktails.”

Wiese—sculptor, poet, installation artist, performer and University of San Diego professor—is in Vegas for a month to appreciate these unique quirks. As the Neon Museum’s second-annual national artist-in-residence, she’ll live and work Downtown, exploring, drawing and researching. “I visited the Neon Museum two years ago,” Wiese says. “One of the things that really excited me about it was the accretion, the moving of things from all over and the collapsing of time.”

True to her interests, Wiese will immerse herself in the Neon Museum’s collection, while also discovering the city. By the end of the month, she will have produced a piece of art in response to her observations. What it will be, she doesn’t yet know.

“A lot of my work is responsive to location or sight,” Wiese says. “My work is often interested in historical and cultural context, seeing those things out in the world. … I’m hoping to spend a lot of time in the collection while thinking about it and mulling over it.”

Wiese’s art runs the gamut, from “architectural interventions” to a performance piece in which she hired sign spinners to display a Chinatown quote. She’s developing a “parasitic bell tower that can attach to institutions.” She is intrigued by the fact that bells announce major life events, such as weddings and funerals, yet the sound of the bells themselves are free of meaning. “I’m really interested in signage, both as a tactic in my own work but also out in the world,” Wiese says. “Signs are both an agreement and negotiation in meaning.”

Allison Wiese Artist’s talk June 15, 6 p.m.; studio open house June 30, 6 p.m.; free. 300 Las Vegas Boulevard N., Ne10 Building, 702-387-6366.

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