Native Las Vegas artist and photographer James Stanford designed A Phalanx of Angels Ascending, a monumental site-specific mural, to commemorate the iconic Blue Angel statue that watched over Downtown Las Vegas for 61 years from its mid-century perch at the Blue Angel Motel.
The art installation was commissioned by Alison Chambers, the owner of The 705 building, an arts incubator located at 705 North Las Vegas Boulevard, and curated by Laura Henkel of ArtCulture PR. The original 16-foot statue was designed by Betty Willis, who also created the famed ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign, and was taken down for restoration in 2017. Stanford’s new installation pays homage to the original and will span over 2,000 square feet, encompassing all three sides of the building, making it viewable from all angles.
Stanford’s design reimagines the Blue Angel through a variety of cultural lenses, at times modern and dynamic with jet rockets propelling the angelic figure towards the sky, at others more classical, explicitly referencing Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Stanford’s design skilfully plays with the architecture of the building, incorporating key structural features into the narrative itself.
Stanford was ten years old when the motel was built and the Blue Angel statue represents his experience growing up in Las Vegas. Stanford, who is now 71, states, ’People don’t think about Las Vegas being an all-American city, but in a way it exemplifies the rest of the country. We build what [people] want, and they come here to enjoy it.’
Stanford is working with respected street artist Cliff Airbrushing Morris to execute his vision. The installation is expected to be completed this summer.
Rob McCoy, President and CEO of the Neon Museum says: ‘Though Willis’ ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign may be regarded as the most famous sign by people outside of the city, the Blue Angel sign holds a particular place in the hearts of many long-time locals.’