Shannon McMillen creates minimalist neon light sculptures using color to transform space. Inspired by the simplicity of a setting sun, a golden hour, or a gentle gradient dawn, the natural world remains her constant muse. Her process most would agree, is meditative. Observing sunscapes along California’s coast, beachcombing becomes an important part of her practice. Using found stones from treasured beaches, she paints what later is translated into neon. Shannon has exhibited for Miami Art Basel, Frieze Los Angeles, and the Museum of Neon Art to name a few.
Banks Journal: So Shannon, today you’re taking us on a little tour of “Your Los Angeles”. Where are we off to first?
Shannon McMillen: I thought it would be fun to take a stroll around the Los Angeles Flower Market. It’s one of my favorite spots I frequent to get inspired.
BJ: The Los Angeles Flower Market is such a hidden beauty of the city. What first got you into experiencing the colorful and diverse spot?
SM: I think my aunt first introduced me to the flower market. Her and my uncle do a style of Japanese floral arranging called ikebana through the Sogetsu school in Los Angeles. It’s very sculptural and minimal in nature. If you get a chance, it’s worth exploring. It’s visual candy :)
BJ: Ikebana is such a beautiful and creative style of flower arrangement. Have you ever tried your hand at doing some of your own?
SM: I have :) I’ve explored with the Sogetsu ikebana style and try to carry that into how I work with florals independently. It’s been a regular thing to have fresh flowers at home almost always :)
BJ: So after walking the isles of the flower market, looking for your next combination of florals to create with you must work up a bit of an appetite. I don’t want to blow any of your spots up but are there some favorite eateries that you head to for a quick bite?
SM: Ugh. SO many. It depends on what I'm in the mood for. A few of my favorites are Kien Giang in Echo Park for vegetarian bahn mi, Tacos Villa Corona in Atwater for a substantial breakfast burrito, Natalie's Peruvian for lomo saltado, also Tacos Arizas also in Echo Park is a must. I could go on but I won't bore you.
BJ: I think it would be impossible to bore us with your culinary knowledge of the city Shannon. Getting around Los Angeles can be quite the feat even for a born and bred Angelino as yourself. Do you have a favorite mode of transport?
SM: Ha! Well, I have my moped, a '76 Puch that I take out for short rides in nice weather. My grandfather's old truck that I use for the beach, road trips, and moving furniture and art. And then I have a '96 Jaguar that is my everyday get a round car. There's so much I want to do to restore it to it's original condition, a bit of a work in progress, but definitely my favorite among those three. I have to add though, taking the train to Olvera St. or downtown is pretty fun as well.
BJ: Your grandfathers truck may not be your favorite but sounds like it would be getting a lot of use with your artistic pursuits and furniture sourcing. Is there some favorite pieces that you have uncovered lately or something that you’re particularly looking for?
SM: I feel like I'm always looking out for interesting pieces. Art, sculpture, furniture etc. Either for myself, for clients, or to sell. I recently did find some treasures, an old Congolese monkey mask and some Chinese neck pillows. Not so typical but very special.
BJ: coming back to your home today I saw both these pieces along with some really unique Neon Sculptures that you have created. This feels like a really lost art form and something that is really nostalgic. What brought you in contact with expressing your creativity?
SM: I first experimented with neon as a medium a few years ago at The Museum of Neon Art. I was immediately attracted and drawn to the way light and color could work together to transform space and shortly after making my first piece was offered my first solo show. Since then I've shown at Miami Art Basel and other shows in LA.
BJ: These are really unique in the world of Neon as most of what you see is more sign writing orientated. Where does the inspiration for the color and shape of your work come from?
SM: My neon works are basically frozen moments from the natural world. Observing sunscapes in golden hours, sunsets, sunrises etc. The intensity of those colors is what I love attempting to recreate. Working with deadstock neon also brings another element to it versus let's say, LED. You can find deadstock Italian glass with some really special tones that they aren't able to replicate anymore. Being able to find those special things gets me excited about creating these pieces even more so because they truly are one of a kind.
BJ: The mixing of the old with the new in your neon sculptures matches back really well with the mixing of genres in the Journal Jams that you put together for us. If you were going to be stuck in single era for music what do you think it would be?
SM: Oh man, that's tough... uhm SKIP haha.
BJ: Hahahaha fair enough. Your compilation is a very well rounded group of tunes. Do you have any sneaky tricks up your sleeve for creating the perfect playlist?
SM: I can't say that I do!
BJ: Hahahaha another skip… Thanks for your time today showing us around your Los Angeles and putting together our Journal Jams Vol: 30. It’s a must listen for sure!
SM: Aw, well thanks for the opportunity to share!
To find out more about Shannon go to her website