MEET THE BEETLEJUICE: Inventive director Tim Burton’s sculptures join displays at Neon Museum celebrating his love affair with Vegas
Welcome home, our spiritual son.
Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Batman and Frankenweenie all dwell in your head. So naturally, Vegas beats in your heart.
You are us. We are you. Now we are one.
“It’s such an artistic city in a weird way, there are so many possibilities” says famed movie director Tim Burton. “I’ve been coming here my whole life and so artistically, it’s very important to me.”
Enter the intersection of city/celebrity synchronicity in Burton’s Lost Vegas, paying homage to “a place where everyday rules seem not to apply.”
In this new sculptural/digital art installation at the Neon Museum Oct. 15 through Feb. 15, 2020, the darkly comic, Burbank-reared fright-meister mines his surreal sensibilities and marries them to the iconic images of the Las Vegas — his “second home” — that he has adored while visiting here since his toddlerhood.
“I used to sneak into the old place where the signs were, trespassing, because it was beautiful,” he says. “It was like these old dinosaur bones. It was peaceful and beautiful and electric and alive all at the same time.”
Film fans have benefited from Burton’s fantastical, exaggerated — and obviously, Vegas-inspired — aesthetic throughout his career, most famously in the over-the-top 1996 invasion-destruction comedy Mars Attacks, during which aliens wreak havoc on the Strip. Several pieces of our most iconic signage — including the Stardust, the Landmark and La Concha — make appearances in that all-star epic, which also shone a bright spotlight on the historic preservation efforts of the Neon Museum.
“It’s weird seeing some of the signs we used in the movie now in the Neon Museum,” Burton adds during an Oct. 14 interview, jovially answering questions while sunglasses shield his eyes and a hat hides his stringy mop of hair.
Now, artistic sensibilities have blended to add Hollywood wattage to the museum’s collection, with Burton’s alien-esque sculpture and digital artwork peppered throughout the sign exhibit.
“I had someone say to me, ‘Why Tim Burton and the Neon Museum?’ And I said, ‘Well, we’re one of the most unconventional museums in the world and I dare say that Tim Burton is probably one of the most unconventional artists and directors in the world, so it’s a perfect match,’” says Rob McCoy, the museum’s president and CEO, as he unveils the exhibit to the media recently.
“It has been a pleasure for the last two weeks working with him in the Boneyard,” says McCoy at the event, which also included Burton greeting fans lined up to see him at the Neon Museum, so he could sign his art books for them. (An actor dressed as Beetlejuice enhanced the oddball mood). “Taking all his ideas and drawings and ideas he’s had for the last year and bringing them to life. This takes the museum to another level.”
Brace for a power display of outta-the-box Burtonism in the first exhibition of his large-scale original fine art in the United States in nearly a decade. Want a peek into his otherworldly brain meanderings? Then graze among pieces such as “Spiral-Eyed Girl,” “Boy with Nails in His Eyes,” “Alien Ex,” “Mummy Boy Karaoke” and “Oyster Boy and a Dancer Named Pearl.”
Approximately 80 percent of the pieces were created specifically for the Neon Museum exhibit, and around 90 percent have never been seen previously. Included among the larger works is a 40-by-20-foot grid of a neon collage, as well as the show’s centerpiece, a 40-foot sign tower that harkens back to the legendary Dunes sign and the seahorses that rose from its pool.
“The Dunes was a powerful one to me because I remember when it was on and I remember when it was closed,” Burton says. “It just stood there like a weird gravestone. It was both beautiful and sad and you have all those emotions in one. I remember the giant seahorses, that’s your memory of it, and then you look at it and they’re about 2 feet tall.”
And that, he says, is the town’s magic. “That’s the weird thing about Las Vegas is the perception and the illusion of it all,” he says. “This is why Las Vegas is such a weird dream for me. These are the memories I have of it.”
In addition to the exhibit pieces, Burton has also created a new finale for the museum’s light show, Brilliant!, with its creator, Craig Winslow, featuring the song, “The Man,” by Las Vegas-based band The Killers, for whom he has directed two music videos.
“I’ve seen Las Vegas change and grow and it’s inspired me because it’s about illusion, the day and the night and the architecture. It helps shape my artistic ideas and thoughts about perception and color,” Burton says.
“Even though these signs are gone, it is something that is artistic and beautiful to look at. … I find it exciting and calming and beautiful.”
The Neon Museum is at 770 Las Vegas Blvd. North. For information, call 702-387-6366 or visit https://www.neonmuseum.org/
To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.