Feature Stories

Artist James Akers Lights Up Texas With His Electric Aesthetic

It's art made out of neon tubes and bent toys.
It's art made out of neon tubes and bent toys. courtesy James Akers
Sculptor James Akers just moved to Dallas from Virginia, and he brought his neon art with him.

“I love to create with a hacked, DIY, electric aesthetic that aims to subvert the fine art finish fetish by emphasizing artistic intent and showing the steps that led to the sculpture's creation,” Akers says.

Akers has been making sculptures he calls “Wild Ones” that use both neon and circuit-bent toys.

“The circuits mix together in a way that creates a visual (and computational) feedback mess,” Akers says. “The neon rapidly flashes with the toy sounds, creating the overloaded bliss that I have come to especially enjoy over these past few months.”

Akers started out glassblowing at Alfred University and was introduced to neon.

“After [I] pumped my first tube and basked in the colored light that I had created, I was totally hooked," Akers says. "I had been an artist for as long as I could remember, but at that moment, I became a huge neon and electrical nerd."

Colored light is “so powerful and immersive," the artist says. The light from the neon can be soft and soothing or aggressive and crazy. In addition, flashing the tubes can emulate motion and play tricks on your brain, creating textures, patterns and feelings that I just cannot seem to get with paint or clay or any other medium.”

Since moving to Texas, Akers has been in a group show by Sarah Moore in Fort Worth and is currently in a show at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft called Light Charmer. He also has an exhibit in Philadelphia at the National Liberty Museum called Sound and Vision.

“Texas is influencing my art a bit — inspiring projects based on a romanticized vision I have for Texas,” Akers says. “For a while, I was making objects designed to change an institution and promote artists using electricity. I took a step back and re-evaluated things when I moved to Dallas and found that I am really (and have been for a while now) interested in people being wild. I like the idea of people pushing boundaries and doing things they are not supposed to.”

You can find some of his neon signage commissions at ACME Creation Lab and at Dallas Glass Art. He also teaches classes such as a weekend neon workshop at ACME Creation Lab and plans to offer more soon.

Akers juggles his full-time and part-time jobs with working on signs, making two video artworks and coordinating a glassblowing performance in Brooklyn. He describes himself as “a chronic overcommitter who finds bliss in overload.”

You can find James Akers’ neon art on Instagram @jamesakers2 and on his website, jamesakers.net.
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Isabel Arcellana has been writing for the Observer since spring 2018 and has been creating fake newspapers for her mom since she was 8. She graduated from SMU with a double major in journalism and fashion media. Her five guitars are named after High School Musical characters.