Known for his innovative neon work and the discovery of a new type of neon light, artist Ben Livingston twists and welds neon glass tubing in a crossfire at 1,000 degrees in one of his Austin-area studios.
It’s not just that Livingston dabbles in a number of different arts; it’s that he pursues each one with passion and excels in it. His unique invention of a new kind of neon – the infinite phosphorescent color palate – won him a fellowship with the National Endowment for the Arts. His childlike animated neon sculpture, a cautionary tale about the end of the world, distracted traffic on Fifth Street for 22 years until 2008, and it beat out the Statue of Liberty to win an IES Paul Waterbury International Illuminating Design Award of Excellence.
Examples of Livingston’s artwork are all over the world. In Austin, they hang at the Austin Convention Center, the University of Texas Performing Arts Center and Motorola. Art collectors ranging from Lance Armstrong to Mick Jagger seek out his pieces. His neon mural "Neon Mural #1" still stands as an Austin landmark.
“What makes Ben different is that he thinks out of the box and the universe,” said Pebbles Wadsworth, former director of the University of Texas Performing Arts Center. “He sees colors differently. He looks at problems, beauty, pain and more from a different slant, and a powerful creative force comes out of him that often I feel he has no control over. Ben has no boundaries.”
Ben Livingston is internationally known as a neon/light sculptor and inventor of an infinite phosphorescent color palette, which glows within his luminous tubes. This discovery won him a fellowship with the National Endowment for the Arts. Other honors include the Paul Waterbury International Lighting Design Award, where his (home made) animated "Neon Mural #1", (a downtown Austin landmark from 1986 - 2008)beat the statue of liberty in New York and his "Confabulating Orbits" an Austin Art in Public Places commission inside the Austin Convention Center. View Ben's Neon work at: http://www.beneon.com.
NEON AND NEON "NIGHTSTICKS" 6' X 9' Available for sale by the artist.
1994 - NEON NIGHTSTICKS
26" X 72" COPPER AND NEON
Neon, neon "Nightsticks" and acrylic. 65in x 32in. x 7in.
12ft. x 20ft. x 4in. Available for sale by the artist.
7ft. x 19.5ft x 7ft. Curtesy of The University of Texas permanent collection. Bass Concert Hall. Austin, TX
7ft. x 19.5ft x 7ft. Curtesy of The University of Texas permanent collection. Bass Concert Hall. Austin, TX - Pre renovation installation
1996 - 30' X 50' -COPPER AND NEON - PERMANENT COLLECTION AUSTIN CONVENTION CENTER - COURTESY - AIPP
1996 - 30' X 50' -COPPER AND NEON - PERMANENT COLLECTION AUSTIN CONVENTION CENTER - COURTESY - AIPP
Neon and Copper. Curtesy of Wilma Mankiller and Charlie Soap.
2011 34' X 34" X 5" NEON NIGHTSTICKS, STEEL AND ACRYLIC
2001-NEON & NIGHTSTICKS FOR JEFF SKILLING RESIDENCE, HOUSTON, TX 7' X 52"
Neon, neon "Nightsticks" and acrylic. 65in x 29in. x 7in.
NEON "NIGHTSTICKS" 6' X 9' Available for sale by the artist.
Neon "Nightstick" and acrylic
37" X 25" NEON, NEON "NIGHTSTICKS" ACRYLIC
MY FINAL REPORT FOR THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS FELLOWSHIP CONTAINING EVERYTHING THAT I LEARNED IN THAT YEAR.
2005 - 65" X 14" X 5" - NEON NIGHTSTICK, NEON AND ACRYLIC
1991 - NEON NIGHTSTICKS & ; STEEL 53" X 38" Available for sale by the artist.
"HELP ME" Ben's statement/speech for 500 parents and patrons of Rawson Saunders School for Dyslexia fundraiser. I don't know about you, but I've always struggled with some pretty bad reading and spelling difficulties. Here's one good example… Its kind of dated ever since the smart phone…But I bet you'll remember… What a huge bummer it was to be with a group of people - and then, suddenly forced to have to look something up in a phone book…In a hurry! If you know what I mean, then you can also relate to the performance anxiety that forces you to whisper the alphabet over and over to yourself, trying to salvage some self esteem as you fumble through those pages.. Oh man, seconds go by like freakin' years - don't they? …. As a kid, some impatient grown ups would just yank the phone book right out of my hands… LOL! But, as a young adult, trying to make it on my own, reading and spelling correctly became pretty dang important - for survival… just getting along, trying to make a living. In other words, for me, back then, as a young neon sign maker, I learned quickly that if I was going to make neon signs for a living, I better be damn sure those words on that hot glass pattern were spelled correctly.. You see, making neon out of squirrely - red hot glass is kind of like using a whip and a chair to tame a wild lion. …You're making letters out of molten glass tubing…and then welding them all together into words - by hand, in a 1-thousand degree blasting fire.. It takes a lot of focus and stamina to hang in there, just trying to coax some decent behavior out of a rather unwilling subject. After countless hours of glass work - If those words aren't spelled right, it's back to the drawing board... And for me, on more occasions than I care to mention, it was "back to the drawing board... A LOT… You know… coping skills for people like me, who've had to assimilate information… in alternative ways….to others, adapt to this world with an uncanny ability to find a path of least resistance… I've found that folks like me, tend to be very clever at figuring out systems and ways to work around them.. For me the path was easy... Art, music or anything where my imagination leads the charge and I don't have to read or follow ANY instructions. Pause... …I want to thank my dear wife and esteemed ALT at Rawson Saunders, Pat Elias, who has shown me how Academic Language Therapy and your school is so important for these kids , and then asked me to donate to this fund raiser …. Next, I want to thank Dane Johnson, he's your talented and virtuous shop teacher who went WAY above his call of duty to help me and to make this Gala happen smoothly.. Last but not least, I want to thank Alyssa Korn… She's your relentless gala coordinator, .. Thank you for asking me to donate my work to this live auction. Now I'd like to tell you why I'm sorry I didn't ask first if I could donate… The first reason, would be an obvious remark like -"If there would have only been a school like this when I was a kid." But then the real reason, it came later and it's personal, and it came out of nowhere... And that's why I'm up here tonight reporting my story to you. Pause….. At first…….I began imagining how difficult it might be if I was so impaired that I couldn't even write out the most basic plea... That my struggle to reach out for help would be so overwhelmingly difficult, that I might be pushed aside and just fall through the cracks of my fate, by our incredibly impatient and competitive society. Then, I thought about the importance of taking an extra moment to look a little deeper into something or someone and how it always reveals secret wonders that one might have overlooked with only a glance. It's the same with my neon.. I see it as a perfect metaphor by comparison… Because, just like us, it's rarefied, it emits light and is it's very fragile. So in honor of our children's situation here, I made a study of a dysgraphic's hand writing and then I bent hot glass to form the two rather unreadable neon words"Help Me". When I started this journey into my neon artwork, there was no instruction book to follow. It just happened… from experimenting, by using all these crazy phosphorescent minerals that I just happened upon.. which amazingly turned into a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.. Who'd a thunk it... Unlike screaming conventional neon signs, my work is very subtle. It relies on the strength of its powerful and pervasive inner glow, just like these amazing kids - there's an organic quality that will learn to be, no matter what, just by the shear determination of being.. But thanks to your generosity tonight….These very special kids get a chance to learn to read those instruction manuals that will help them get along a lot easier in this crazy and intricate world of ours. I hope that you all have a wonderful evening … Thank you for listening .
TRIBUTE TO MO SIMON. 2009 - NEON AND ACRYLIC Available for sale by the artist.
A family portrait. Mother, Father and their two children each made the twisted part of their very own and very unique neon "Nightstick" ... I LOVE doing these with families because everyone enjoys the experience so much!
1997 - NEON NIGHTSTICKS, WOOD AND COPPER This work is for sale by the Artist.
1994 68" X 15" X 6" - NEON NIGHTSTICKS AND ACRYLIC
Copper and neon 34" X 30" X 5" Available for sale by the artist.
2009 - 37" X 14" X 5" NIGHTSTICKS AND ACRYLIC. PHOTO GEORGE GRUEL
2005 - 18.5' X 9" X 12" - NEON NIGHTSTICKS, STEEL AND GLASS SLAG
36" X 18" X 6" Available for sale by the artist.
5ft. x 8ft. x 6in.
Colored glass, phosphorescent minerals and Argon gas.
Nightstick and acrylic Available for sale by the artist.
PHOTO : JOHN HAGEN
2009 - BEN CONDUCTS MASTER'S WORKSHOP AT CORNING MUSEUM OF GLASS AT 2009 GAS CONFERENCE.
GLASS ARTS SOCIETY (GAS) CONFERENCE 2009
Left to right. Spiral in Tension, Ben with Franklinite (phosphorescent mineral) and nightstick detail from his fellowship final report to the National Endowment to the Arts, Washington D.C.
Photograph © Randa Bishop Neon, neon "Nightsticks" and acrylic.
Just look at that~
1987 - 12' X 9' - NEON, INCANDESCENT AND CACTUS
2001 - 28" X 52" X 28" STEEL, NEON AND RED OAK
Carillon Tower lighting Design by Jan Moyer Gruel Photo by George Gruel. Glencoe, Il
96" X 90" - NEON - 1985 - Collaboration with Patrick Wadley
1992 ACRYLIC PAINT, NEON AND STEEL
1990 NEON AND ACRYLIC PAINT 5' X 7'
1989 Bicentennial exhibit.. NEON, ACRYLIC PAINT AND WOOD
1993, Acrylic paint and nerve
Solvent transfer and acrylic paint Available for sale by the artist.
1994, ACRYLIC PAINT
1990 - 96" X 48" - ACRYLIC PAINT
1991 27' X 7' - NEON, ACRYLIC, STEEL, WOOD, SOLVENT TRANSFER ON PAPER AND GESSO PREPARED CANVAS AND SHELLAC #2 & #3 is for sale by the Artist.
1994 - STEEL AND NEON
2005 - STEEL AND GLASS SLAG
1993, 4" X 3" X 3" - METAL
2008. COURTESY - AUSTIN CHRONICLE This work is available for sale by the artist.
1ST RUNNER UP - THE STATUE OF LIBERTY - NYC.
THE KING OF THE ELECTRICAL WORLD.
Total restoration 1989
Early Photo of the artist
MY MASTER'S WORKSHOP AT THE GAS CONFERENCE - AT THE CORNING MUSEUM - WHERE I GET TO DO ANYTHING I WANT!
PHOTOGRAPH - SOLVENT XFER ON PAPER (STURGIS SD. 1992)