“When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending.”Brene Brown
There are a handful of things that will inspire me to turn the car around: doughnuts, Route 66, mid century modern, chili dogs, Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, art, and of course, neon.
Did I mention doughnuts?
In many ways, Albuquerque is the mecca for many of these personally important cultural icons.
And of course, as the driver, sherpa, and manservant if I thought my Partner might enjoy something I’d assumptively brake. Like a good soldier I’d paddle Her across the Delaware River at Christmas.
Thankfully, a boat wasn’t always necessary on this trip.
Instead in October of 2012 I abandoned all good sense and drove my Partner from Wisconsin to Albuquerque for the annual Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival. The festival takes place on the two weekends of the 10 day Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Festival.
A must see event for 500 hundred reasons I’ll get to elsewhere eventually.
Thank goodness for anyone that appreciates neon and a manservant.
Now held in the Sands Casino, at the time the art show was held in the big top tent in the shadows of the mountains around Albuquerque. As we had the week free, we made the time to explore historic Route 66, Old Albuquerque, and the historic Nob Hill neighborhood.
As we made way along Route 66 I spotted something shiny and turned to my Partner announcing, “we should stop here.” There was some neon in the window and a sign above the door reading “Neon Art Gallery”.
I knocked at the locked door and waited for an answer. Peering into the darkened windows of the gallery, I patiently dialed the number on the window.
A few minutes later as we stood gazing and awkwardly pointing at the beautiful neon in the windows a man came to the front and let us in. This is how we met the local historian, certified electrician, and neon artist Robert Randazzo, the owner and sole proprietor of Absolutely Neon.
Randazzo was born and raised in a Sicilian family in Brooklyn, New York where he learned how to work as a young boy helping his family around their bakery. As he matured he decided to study as an electrical apprentice.
He has resided in Albuquerque for 27 years and repairs, designs, installs and maintains neon work all over the country. Over the years Robert has tried to bring in new artists excited about learning the lost art of neon but had a hard time finding anyone that has the same kind of interest or “fire” within to continue creating the beautiful lit up “works of art”.
It turns out “Absolutely Neon” is a museum of sorts showcasing Robert’s work and his 30 year history of creating neon art. He gave us a full tour and talked about his life making neon and all the interesting projects he had been involved in over the years. Much of the neon you see in and around Albuquerque was installed or maintained by Robert.
If you are in Albuquerque and want to meet a unique individual that uses the pragmatic process of combining glass, gas, and electricity to create something artistically mesmerizing and powerful be sure to go to Nob Hill and tap on the windows.
Robert and his work are worth the time.
Absolutely Neon’s Workshop
Visit http://www.vintagepainter.com to see more work.