We’ve Got a Problem: At Night, Art Comes Out to Play: Inside Ion Art’s Neon Wonderland, Surreal Garden Exhibit at Zilker Botanical Garden – Columns

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Greg and Sharon Keshishian of Ion Art (Photo by John Anderson)

I wouldn’t describe list editor Wayne Alan Brenner as having a particularly yellowish view of the world, but I had a good laugh when he told me this yesterday: “The more I watch and critique art, the sicker I get of it and artists.”

Context is key here: Brenner was telling me about why he was drawn to the profile of Ion Art, the subjects of this week’s cover story. A small boutique founded by husband and wife team Greg and Sharon Keshishian, Ion Art is responsible for some of the city’s most iconic neon signs (including the the Chronicleclean facing I-35, a rosy red beacon since the early 90s). Brenner lamented how arrogant the art world could be, despising neon as a medium. “‘You know, it’s strip bars and joints, that’s what it is,'” Brenner said, mimicking the art elitists. “They [Ion] must work against this stigma.”

While telling her story, Brenner spent time at Ion Art’s design-build studio, marveling at the pieces being made for their upcoming Surreal Garden interactive art exhibit at the Zilker Botanical Garden. (He was also our man with a camera; Brenner took the studio photos, while John Anderson took the cover portrait and other photos to be found online with this story.) Pointing to the installation d ‘Ion with not only neon but also glass and wood and metal, not to mention the technical know-how needed to get everything zinc-plated, Brenner drew a thematic line towards the Shaker Ladder Back Chair – another exquisite intersection of arts and crafts.

Take that, art snoots.


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Reversed (Photo by John Anderson)

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