Guy Yang’s Life of the Fading Glow Documentary Tells the Art Story of One of the Last Neon Artists Left in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is affectionately known as the City of Angels. Aside from the existence of Hollywood with all of its glitter, the lights shine bright night in LA. It’s pretty hard to believe that of the thousands of artists that migrate to LA each year, in “make it or break it mode,” often destined and destitute to live their dream, there is just a handful of Neon Artists.

Please leave it to inspirational filmmaker Guy Zhuoqin Yang, who is rapidly becoming famous for his ability to showcase the unknown and the understated through his work in film, to find David Otis Johnson. David Otis Johnson, regarded as the best Neon Artist in LA, provides an introspective look, in the documentary Life of the Fading Glow, about what it means to be a Neon Artist today. While Neon Art is not entirely a thing of the past, it is not wildly popular. At the beginning of Life of the Fading Glow, Johnson talks about how every single neon tube is unique; and, how as an artist, he has a tremendous passion for the materials and the process. “Neon exhibits human touch,” shares Johnson.

The appeal of this short film is that Johnson speaks very candidly about the ups and downs of making it while trying to enjoy his craft. In 2013, Johnson came to a crossroads. Like many artists who love what they do, he decided that he would pursue his artistry on a full-time basis. So, he left his job. Working full-time as a Neon Artist has not been easy for Johnson and says, “Every time you make a new piece, and it does not sell, you have to store it.”

Johnson goes on to talk about what happens when neon technology becomes obsolete. In this situation, there is an excellent chance that an artist could end up with a stockpile of old material.

Johnson is adamant about wanting to carry on the torch. He is one of the last of what seems to be a dying breed. Guy Yang, also an outstanding director, is very skillful at how he places Johnson most often walking by himself in this documentary. The timing of these scenes coincides well with the nature of Johnson’s story. Today, Johnson is still doing what he loves – Neon Art. He runs his own personal studio; and works for the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, CA.

Guy Yang does a tremendous job with color, tone, and timing in this documentary. It almost appears as if Johnson is on an island all by himself, surrounded by a bunch of bright, illuminated pieces of Neon Art. The message speaks to Yang’s brilliance as a filmmaker. Neon was first discovered back in the late 19th century, and since then it’s been used in all sorts of contemporary art. It is so rare today that it is almost impossible to find artists. Yang is an extraordinary talent whose ability to uncover unknown or unique talent is unmatched.

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