Dylan Neuwirth | A New Direction
The artist, Dylan Neuwirth creates vibrant light sculptures, inspired by his own personal experiences and unique past. He describes his body of work as part of a “digital revolution,” showcasing a new era of art which invites the use of science and technology to replicate the philosophy of the internet and the human relationship with social media.
Using different techniques and colors, his light sculptures are mostly comprised of a cocktail of gases concealed in glass shapes, each with their own quality of illumination adding to the intrigue and excitement of the finished piece. However, the bright lighting is not what makes Dylan’s art so captivating, but rather the dark tale behind it. In a different style of interview, Dylan Neuwirth tells us his inspiring story in a reveal all, where we tackle secrets, struggles and overcoming the past to make way for a better, and more illuminated future.
Based in Seattle, Dylan uses the energy of the bohemian city and often collaborates with creative local artists and craftspeople in dedication to keep his work authentic with a stylistic finish. As much as Dylan expresses his work in the form of art, it is equally a mastery of science. Using a variance of gases and experimentation has allowed Dylan to uncover new techniques that can alter and enhance the characteristics of certain elements.
“When we look at neon, we use clear glass so that you can really see the gas coming through to create the bright colors. However, when we use other gases, from Helium, Argon, and Krypton – which are actually called the Noble Gases, they each have their own quality of illumination, making things a little more exciting.
Experimenting with different gases lead me to discover how to use them to create all these different techniques and new levels of brightness. For instance, argon is actually a very faint color but when you add mercury, it glows incredibly white, it’s completely different. But these will all get expressed into different forms, as well and mounted on to different armatures.“
An unrelenting theme throughout Dylan’s body of work is that of technology and the human relationship with it. One particular piece that stands out, entitled INTERFACE embodies his idea that we are being driven by technology in all that we do, giving us a closer perspective of his personal outlook.
“This piece in the triangular shape is actually a copy of the molecule silicon and silicon is what glass is made from. Glass is also a lot of what my particular craft is made up of. Another interesting fact about silicon is, of course, it is used within the microchip, which we use to save data on.
A lot of my work represents this relationship between the Universe, the Cosmos that we live and exist in and then really laying it down to technology. In the past, we looked to the stars to navigate this planet but now we look to the microchip to do that. I like to position humans in between that whole thing, that yes we are still looking to the stars but we are also very much looking to an inner space and the microchip and the digital world within.”
Despite Dylan’s enthusiastic approach towards his career and art form, it is one that has not always been so easy having felt personally lost for some time before reinventing himself and sparking his passion for the arts once again.
“I grew up with an alcoholic Mom, so by living in a household like that, I ended up where I ended up. I had been arrested numerous times, I fought with Cops. If you could think of every low life character you could ever imagine, then I have met them, I have been in some very dark places. When I was arrested for the final time, I was ready to be done with it anyway but it just took getting arrested and going to jail. I was married to my then wife, I had a son. I had no job, I was heading for a divorce, and it was the middle of winter in Seattle and it was also my birthday. It was that day, on my birthday when I decided to change and do something about it.”
“I combine these early memories of alienation, subconscious violence, and systemic addiction with digital culture motifs to create multi-platform tableaus.”
As Dylan talks about his upbringing as a child and later self-conflicts, it is evident that those early moments helped to shape him into the creative and optimistic man he is today. It’s these hardships and trials he has personally overcome that make his art so emotional and impactful.
“As part of the Court Order that was mandated, I attended AA for two years. It works for so many people but it wasn’t what got me sober. I had a guy that I had to meet with throughout those two years who was a big believer in AA, and he gave me the 24hr coin. Like this ‘one day at time’ type coin, but I took it, and I cast it in bronze and then I gold plated it. On the back, is this thing called the serenity prayer which says ‘Grant me this serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and to encourage the things that I can change and have the wisdom to know the difference.’ I think I already had that way of thinking in my mind but that cemented it. And that way of thinking is in all of the work that I make now. It comes from my own strength and my own will. Being sober made me realize that I have so much to do in this lifetime and I just can’t be sidetracked by things that will deviate that. It has been crazy, but a lot of work has come out of it, the idea of light and darkness has become very important to me and now more than ever in the way the world has unfolded in all these horrific and beautiful ways.”
Dylan’s art studio is branded with his latest and most iconic pieces and creates an immediate sense of self-expression. One predominant feature throughout is the use of Neon. A signature aesthetic but one that is rooted in early memories of alienation and violence.
“My Mom’s husband gave her a neon sign, it said Judy’s as that was her name in red cursive writing. However my Mom, even though a very smart woman, had a problem with alcohol. Thankfully she is sober now. At night, she would get abusive if you will or pass out, so I would turn on that neon sign in the kitchen and watch movies or shows on this small black and white TV. I’d watch Blade Runner, RoboCop or Terminator, but it was all in black and white and then I had this big red neon sign against the monochrome. That place was my escape. This memory became my aesthetic – what has always guided me.”
“The sign was like a beacon for me, I always knew I could escape my sense of confusion by turning on the neon sign.”
“For me, that experience really helped me to develop my art. I kept using this medium, but not really fully understanding why? People would say, ‘Why do you work with Neon? What’s the attraction to that?’ and I finally realized only a year ago, that this whole time, I have just been re-making that room over and over again.”
“It creates a unique dialogue, that with these gases, they are not about signage or cute sayings or advertising or anything that we associate with neon. But it is about this feeling of energy, something well beyond ourselves.”
With this sentiment in mind, it is something that has driven and inspired many of the concepts behind Dylan’s projects, blended in with his personal experiences, and overcoming his own addictive battles.
“From 2000 to 2011 I didn’t make any artwork at all. I was completely wiped out as a better way to describe it. I am very lucky to be alive to be honest. When I got sober, I realized I had wasted all this time and I had to look back at those years, and just go ‘Wow’. I thought to myself that I have to do something with my life. I held onto that sentiment moving forward. Using my work is a way to reference all of that, using contrasts and lighting to showcase our hope and expectations of the future, against the nostalgia and the regret of the past. I have become really committed to the themes of time and space, and how we view the Human experiences.”
In light of everything Dylan has been through, we felt it was necessary to ask what best piece of advice he has ever received that helped guide him and worthy to pass on to others.
“There was this guy I knew, when I was growing up who worked in a restaurant. And even till this day, he is still the funniest person I have ever met in my whole life. His name is Keith Tall and he had this wavy, silver white hair and these piercing blue eyes and he was kind of a big dude. But I would go to his house often, just to hang out and one time when I went over he had this pile of sticks, twigs, leaves and stuff. It was the pile the size of this massive truck, it was huge and in Georgia, during summer that was just a bad idea because at any moment, it could just catch fire. And I told him this, and he just goes, and grabs a bottle of tequila, and just tells me ‘Look, chill out. My father fought the demon, the grandfather fought the demon and I’m going to fight the demon, so chill out’. So I watch this guy set it on fire and with just a garden hose and a shovel, down in his underwear. He fought this fire for about eight hours, and when it was all done, and it all came down- he goes, ‘you know why I done that?’ Three things– timing, technique and maintenance, those are all the things you need in life. If you have the right timing, you know what to do. Technique – that’s WHAT you do and when it all goes right, it’s the maintenance and you just keep flipping them over.’
It may not be the best advice, but it was definitely something that I took to heart and have never forgotten.”