"Shimmering Zen" by James Stanford

Vintage Las Vegas Neon signs make Modern Mandalas in James Stanford's new book, Shimmering Zen


Shimmering Zen is a compilation of 150 of Stanford's works created over the last fifteen years published in large hardback format. Composed of digital photos of historic Las Vegas neon signage and architectural elements found in the 1950s and 1960s, and shot in the Mojave Desert, Stanford artfully creates mesmerizing designs using newly developed purpose specific technology. 

Stanford's group of intriguing digital montages convey and respond to the potency of the mandala as a symbol, and it's influence and importance to Asian culture worldwide. 

The artist's process is spiritual as much as it is artistic. Informed by the practices and beliefs of Zen Buddhism, Stanford believes his work really came to life with his spiritual practice and the seminal influence of his Las Vegas upbringing. 

How to approach a mandala:
- Is all about not knowing how to view a mandala, but viewing it anyway
- Apprehend the mandala lightly, like you are holding a butterfly
- Attitude is everything when viewing a 'jewel of Indra'
- If you are grasping or impatient, you are killing the experience
- Breathe in and out. Attend to your breath
- we enter the realm of the mandala with our eyes floating on the wind of our breath
- Pure awareness - that is what our consciousness is
- Dont' know' is the only mindset. See where wonderment takes you
- We are the universe's way of knowing itself
James Stanford

Stanford came from a painting background but found collage, montage, and photography enhanced the visualization process, and digital technology allowed him to create innovative techniques like layering and mirroring that give his mandalas their transcendental, kaleidoscope quality. 

I think the main thing that distinguishes a kaleidoscope from a mandala is the intent. The intent of the kaleidoscope is just to make something symmetrical, beautiful and reflective. And the idea of the mandala is to take you on a trip. Some mandalas are very formulaic, such as in Tibetan art. You make a traditional mandala and it takes you on a certain trip. But many artworks become mandalas when that wasn’t the artist’s intention. The artist is simply charting their own course, and talking about what makes sense to them in their state of consciousness at the time. However, they may hope that other people will view it in the same way as they do and get into it, bringing about a change of consciousness.
— James Stanford

Shimmering Zen is published by Lanthe Press Limited: London. Shimmering Zen includes essays by the artist, the curator, Elizabeth Herridge, and foreword by Jeff Rosen, Vice President, The Higher Learning Commission, Evanston, Illinois. The Book offers an insight into Stanford's creative process and inspiration allied with original images of the signs, and accompanied by nostalgic tales of his Las Vegas life, including being on the set of Viva Las Vegas with Elvis Presley and Anne-Margaret.

The book is available to buy at shimmeringzen.com